I am 35 years old and people never cease to surprise me. My trip home from Los Angeles today was a good example of this.
It was a tortuous affair that should have been a quick hop from LA to Oakland, popping on BArt, and then getting home for a cup of tea and an episode of The Daily Show.
It didn’t work out like that.
My flight was delayed. Then we sat on the tarmac for an hour. Then the new AirBart train was delayed. Then I was delayed at the BArt station in Oakland for 30 minutes. Throughout this I was tired, it was raining, and my patience was wearing thin.
Through the duration of this chain of minor annoyances, I was reading about the horrifying school attack in Pakistan. As I read more, related articles were linked with other stories of violence, aggression, and rape, perpetuated by the dregs of our species.
As anyone who knows me will likely testify, I am a generally pretty positive guy who sees the good in people. I have baked my entire philosophy in life and focus in my career upon the core belief that people are good and the solutions to our problems and the doors to opportunity are created by good people.
On some days though, even the strongest sense of belief in people can be tested when reading about events such as this dreadful act of violence in Pakistan. My seemingly normal trip home from the office in LA just left me disappointed in people.
While stood at the BArt station I decided I had had enough and called an Uber. I just wanted to get home and see my family. This is when my mood changed entirely.
A few minutes later, my Uber arrived, and I was picked up by an older gentleman called Gerald. He put my suitcase in the trunk of his car and off we went.
We started talking about the Pakistan shooting. We both shared a desperate sense of disbelief at all those innocent children slaughtered. We questioned how anyone with any sense of humanity and emotion could even think about doing that, let alone going through with it. With a somber air filling the car, Gerald switched gears and started talking about his family.
He told me about his two kids, both of which are in their mid-thirtees. He doted on their accomplishments in their careers, their sense of balance and integrity as people, and his three beautiful grand-children.
He proudly shared that he had shipped his grandkids’ Christmas presents off to them today (they are on the East Coast) so he didn’t miss the big day. He was excited about the joy he hoped the gifts would bring to them. His tone and sentiment was one of happiness and pride.
We exchanged stories about our families, our plans for Christmas, and how lucky we both felt to love and be loved.
While we were generations apart…our age, our experiences, and our differences didn’t matter. We were just proud husbands and fathers who were cherishing the moments in life that were so important to both of us.
We arrived at my home and I told Gerald that until I stepped in his car I was having a pretty shitty trip home and he completely changed that. We shook hands, shared Christmas best wishes, and parted ways.
What I was expecting to be a typical Uber ride home with me exchanging a few pleasantries and then doing email on my phone, instead really illuminated what is important in life.
We live in complex world. We live on a planet with a rich tapestry of people and perspectives.
Evil people do exist. I am not referring to a specific religious or spiritual definition of evil, but instead the extreme inverse of the good we see in others.
There are people who can hurt others, who can so violently shatter innocence and bring pain to hundreds, so brutally, and so unnecessarily. I can’t even imagine what the parents of those kids are going through right now.
It can be easy to focus on these tragedies and to think that our world is getting worse; to look at the full gamut of negative humanity, from the inconsequential, such as the miserable lady yelling at the staff at the airport, to the hateful, such as the violence directed at innocent children. It is easy to assume that our species is rotting from the inside out, to see poison in the well, and that the rot is spreading.
While it is easy to lose faith in people, I believe our wider humanity keeps us on the right path.
While there is evil in the world, there is an abundance of good. For every evil person screaming there is a choir of good people who drown them out. These good people create good things, they create beautiful things that help others to also create good things and be good people too.
Like many of you, I am fortunate to see many of these things every day. I see people helping the elderly in their local communities, many donating toys to orphaned kids over the holidays, others creating technology and educational resources that help people to create new content, art, music, businesses, and more. Every day millions devote hours to helping and inspiring others to create a brighter future.
What is most important about all of this is that every individual, every person, every one of you reading this, has the opportunity to have this impact. These opportunities may be small and localized, or they may be large and international, but we can all leave this planet a little better than when we arrived on it.
The simplest way of doing this is to share our humanity with others and to cherish the good in the face of evil. The louder our choir, the weaker theirs.
Gerald did exactly that tonight. He shared happiness and opportunity with a random guy he picked up in his car and I felt I should pass that spirit on to you folks too. Now it is your turn.
Thanks for reading.