Reading news feeds and social media, commentary and opinion pieces, one cannot help but encounter numerous voices of hatred and cynicism. Sometimes it seems that voices of compassion and outreach, inclusion and understanding, are few and far in-between. They can make all the difference, but if they are few, do they really matter? I feel compelled to make a choice between them, to stand for one or the other. But which approach should I take? Should I choose defensiveness and self-protection, or inclusiveness and outreach?
How does one choose a stance, an opinion, a starting point to encounter the world? Every time I open social media, I am bombarded with new hate crimes, new insults, new murders, new sprees of killing. I read of young Muslim girls harassing Jewish visitors on the Temple Mount for the crime of being Jewish. I read of Hamas investing in youth military training camps training kids to bomb and kill, planning for a war with child soldiers, instead of helping to rebuild broken homes. I read of Boko Haram sending girls they have kidnapped out to die as suicide bombers. I read of parents killing their children for honor. I read of militants blowing up mosques. I read of young women being killed for the crime of being raped. I read of a hundred and one.tragedies.
Sometimes it seems that the world has too many forces pushing it to crumble into disfunction and hatred. Sometimes it is the voices of cynicism that sound most realistic, that hatred is a given, that one has no choice but to face it as a force of nature that must be fought. But then it is the voices of compassion which offer the most promise.
I hear of the girl with Down’s Syndrome who started a cookie making business. I read of youth who help raise a million dollars for a struggling school in an underprivileged neighborhood. I read a young woman’s open letter to all, describing the life change that moving from an abusive home to a group home wrought in her life. I witness simple kindness as someone helps an elderly person navigate down the street, as someone offers directions to a lost man.
Even in that volatile world of social media, with its enormous hate groups, I see that kindness also exists, there are many groups that meet to express kindness, not just loathing of segments of mankind. There are groups to help children with special needs, victims of rape, people recovering from serious illness, groups to help people challenged by mental disorders. There are groups to help parents who adopt children cope, there are groups to support struggling hospitals, there are groups to teach people skills and support their journey through life. There are groups that choose kindness as their focus, and mutual responsibility, and support.
Which choice to invest in makes an enormous difference. It can mean the difference in an article, a vote, or a way of life. But which way is correct – cynicism or hope? With elections looming, this sort of choice even has the power to move a nation in one direction or another.
When I am confronted with so much hate, it seems fighting hatred is absolutely necessary to avert tragedy. One must be on the defensive. To avert one’s gaze is to give up and give in.
But in my heart of hearts, I know that the future lies in hope, in kindness, in acceptance, in mutual responsibility. The future lies in taking chances on people, in helping each other out. It is the kindness and hard work that people engage in every day that makes the modern world tick, that provide the best chances to all for a good life.