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After Boston: 4 reasons you shouldn’t give up on humanity

by Richard Hall Modified: April 18, 2013 at 1:45 pm •  Published: April 18, 2013

Newtown.

Los Angeles.

Boston.

It’s been less than five months since our hearts were saddened by the news of innocent children being massacred. It’s been just a few months since a man named Christopher Dorner went on the attack in California. And it’s been less than a week since a pair of explosions rocked the Boston Marathon, injuring dozens and killing several.

As Oklahomans, we know the face of evil and, as Americans, we’ve seen such evil brought to justice. But as members of the human race, we know we are capable of better and that the good outweighs the bad.

It’s a topsy turvy world, but that’s always been true. And it’s times like these that we remember there is still good in this world, that good people will always exist and that you shouldn’t give up on humanity.

That’s because…


4. Complete strangers care about you

The Internet might be a shady place to some, but beacons of light are more frequent than you think.
The Internet might be a shady place to some, but beacons of light are more frequent than you think.

Think about all of the strangers you come into contact with every day: The bus driver, the guy standing behind you at your favorite coffee shop, the teenage kid working at your neighborhood grocery store, and the woman calling to remind you about that upcoming dentist appointment you’ve been putting off.

You probably think you don’t have a connection to any of them.

But you do.

You all have a vested interest in the world you live in and the people you share it with. It’s why people donate their blood, their hair, their money, their time — it’s why people care about you even if they don’t personally know you.

Just think about the Internet for a second. What’s the first thing about it that comes to your mind? Maybe email and social media. Maybe your favorite websites and fantasy leagues. No matter what you think about, there’s one thing in common: It connects you to the world, and to strangers.

You know why they make these apps, right? So you don't have to take the computer into the bathroom with you.
You know why they make these apps, right? So you don't have to take the computer into the bathroom with you.

The group Anonymous recently stood up for a complete stranger, named Rehtaeh Parsons, and her grieving family. See, Rehtaeh committed suicide after she was gang-raped and bullied. The police in her Canadian town weren’t moving fast enough on the case for anyone’s liking, despite having evidence to make arrests.

Anonymous stepped in and used their skills and resources to find the names of teenagers allegedly involved in the rape. They threatened to release the names if the police didn’t act on the case. So act the police did.

The Parsons family. It took a group of strangers to light a fire.
The Parsons family. It took a group of strangers to light a fire.

Love them or hate them, Anonymous did something inherently good, something we can all understand: They stood up for someone they didn’t know when no one else would, and they did it the best way they knew how.

Then there’s reddit, and the redditors. They did something great when they sent a sick little girl named Alexis Blackburn more than one hundred get well cards, all because they wanted to show their support. The act was so moving, reddit created a “get well” section that gives users a chance to send love and happiness to anyone around the world.

Alexis Blackburn gives thanks to the more than 130 redditors who sent her get well cards.
Alexis Blackburn gives thanks to the more than 130 redditors who sent her get well cards.

There’s also the story of Aaron Collins and his legacy. He died young and his last wish was for a restaurant server get a $500 tip. This video went viral last year, and Collins’ family is now traveling the nation to give $500 tips in every state, thanks to donations made by strangers on the Internet.

And who can forget Oklahoman Doug Eaton? On his 65th birthday, he stood at a busy Oklahoma City intersection with a sign that read “I have a home and a car and a job. Do you need a few bucks for some coffee?”

For 65 minutes, Eaton performed 65 acts of kindness, handing out $5 bills. He was surprised by some reactions, because some people refused the money, instead asking Eaton to give it to someone else in need of it.

Strangers: They surprise you, and they can definitely inspire the notion of “paying it forward.”

Sometimes, though, things are so painful and gut wrenching that you have no clue how to cure it. That’s when you have to remember that…


3. It’s OK to laugh

Photo by Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman
Photo by Jim Beckel/The Oklahoman

Everyone has heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine.” You’ve heard it because there’s truth to it.

On the physiological side of things, laughter can help reduce blood pressure, increase the response of tumor- and disease-killing cells, defend against respiratory diseases, and improve alertness and memory.

Your mental health is also improved by laughter. Laughter can strengthen relationships, according to neuroscientist Robert Provine. Heck, he wrote the book on it.

Provine also said laughter is contagious, but you already know that. It’s like yawning: You hear or see someone else laugh and you can’t help but laugh with them.

And that’s the goal of 20-year-old Shane Burcaw: to remind people that it’s OK to laugh.

Shane has spinal muscular atrophy and has been in a wheelchair since he was 2. Although he lives with this horrible affliction, he created a blog to share his story and to encourage people with the fact that, if he can laugh at his situation, then anyone can.

Here’s a video showing how Shane’s positivity has kept up his, and his family’s, spirit:

Shane took to reddit to host an open forum, letting redditors ask him anything. One of the most moving statements he made sums up his quest in succinct fashion:

I just want to make people laugh. It is one of my all-time favorite things. If you can take anything from my life, it should be that a positive attitude and sense of humor can go a long way toward overcoming your own problems no matter what they are.

Inspired by the feedback, Shane created a nonprofit called Laughing at my Nightmare, which allows people to help each other find a “positive and humorous perspective” in their lives. All because Shane believes (say it with me) laughter is the best medicine.

Shane’s a young guy, and there are even younger than he making strides in their own communities, which is why we should…


2. Have faith in our children

Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington
Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington

The boy pictured is Johnny Karlinchak of Springfield, Va. He’s not even 10 years old, but that didn’t stop him from raising money to help his neighbor, Elissa Myers.

He sprung into action shortly after a strong storm hit the area and caused a giant tree to crash into Elissa’s house. Knowing it’d take money to fix, Johnny raided his piggy bank and donated the money to the rebuilding efforts. When he learned it would take $500 to cover the insurance deductible, he sprung into action again, this time creating a lemonade stand to help raise the money.

And raise the money he did. In short time, he and his lemonade stand had covered the deductible twice over.

When The Washington Post spoke to Elissa, she had this to say:

I lost many, many things that day. But things did not make me cry. The overwhelming kindness of Johnny did.

Teenager Jordan Somer receives the TeenNick Halo Award.
Teenager Jordan Somer receives the TeenNick Halo Award.

Jordan Somer was barely a teenager in 2007 when she hosted her first Miss Amazing pageant, which gives girls and young women with disabilities the chance to be amazing. It’s a pageant that focuses on all beauty, and helps girls build self-confidence and see that they have support in their communities. It’s still going strong in 2013.

Phoebe Russell, then 6 years old, had a goal to help out the hungry in her community. Little did she know it would spark quite the response. (Photo courtesy Tyson Foods)
Phoebe Russell, then 6 years old, had a goal to help out the hungry in her community. Little did she know it would spark quite the response. (Photo courtesy Tyson Foods)

When a 6-year-old has the idea to help feed the hungry, you better help.

That was Phoebe Russell’s idea: To raise $1,000 to help feed San Francisco’s hungry via the city’s Food Bank. Her idea gained speed, snowballed and erupted in the best way possible: Within a few months, she raised $20,000. That turned into more than 12,000 meals for the hungry.

If someone who is 5 years old can have this kind of impact, you know, what can we as adults do and how can we magnify our efforts? — Paul Ash, San Francisco Food Bank executive director

Brendan Haas started the Soldier for a Soldier campaign last year, when he was just 9 years old. (Photo courtesy Soldier for a Soldier Facebook page)
Brendan Haas started the Soldier for a Soldier campaign last year, when he was just 9 years old. (Photo courtesy Soldier for a Soldier Facebook page)

What began as a simple notion turned into a infection of generosity.

Brendan Haas created a Facebook page called Soldier for a Soldier, in which he wanted to trade a toy soldier for a trip to Disney World to give to a fallen soldier’s family. It was successful, to say the least.

I just think they do something good, so I wanted to do something good back. — Brendan Haas

But his giving didn’t stop there.

Haas’s story reached the producers of “Good Morning America,” and they invited him onto the show. There, they surprised him with his own trip to Disney World. Since it’s in Haas’s nature to pay it forward, he gave that trip away to a fallen soldier’s family, too.

Meet Malala Yousafzai, a 15-year-old Pakistani girl who is the youngest nominee ever for a Nobel Peace Prize for her education and women’s rights activism in a volatile region of the country where the Taliban oppressed women.

Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai

In October 2012, Taliban gunmen shot her in the head and neck as she was returning home from school. Much to their chagrin, Malala survived and her resolve is as strong as ever.

Malala knew an attack on her life was a sure thing, and she played the scene over and over in her head. She had this to say about it just months before the Taliban tried to take her life:

I think of it often and imagine the scene clearly. Even if they come to kill me, I will tell them what they are trying to do is wrong, that education is our basic right.

Kids, right? They’re something else, and more often than not they surprise us with their insight, kindness and understanding. It’s like Yoda said: “Size matters not.”

Which brings up the fact that…


1. The little things matter, and they add up

Photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times
Photo by Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times

Just because some good deeds are small doesn’t mean they’re tossed aside to make way for the perceived bigger acts of kindness.

After all, what’s the barometer for these sort of things? Who decides that? What’s small to one person might be huge to another.

For instance, everyone remembers when this happened:

NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo gives a homeless man some socks and boots during a cold October. (Photo courtesy Facebook)
NYPD Officer Larry DePrimo gives a homeless man some socks and boots during a cold October. (Photo courtesy Facebook)

Socks and shoes are something many of us have. Sadly, though, far too many of us don’t. So what might get re-gifted next Christmas by one person might be another person’s greatest possession.

The truth is: The little things matter, and they add up.

Random acts of kindness are done every day, and all of us have been a recipient. It could be something like a stranger buying your meal. Or your sibling taking your dog on a walk while you’re at work.

Kindness is one of those things that makes us human, and helps define us as a people.

When you’re in a wheelchair, most everyone is taller than you, so ordinary things like going to a concert can lead to disappointing results.

That almost happened to wheelchair-bound Patrick Connelly at a Blake Shelton concert last year. He became distraught when he realized he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the concert because he couldn’t see the stage.

Enter two strangers, who held up Connelly for a good portion of the concert, despite the 100-degree temperature:

Now, get to know Erik Martin. In 2010, Erik’s wish came true: He became a superhero.

He was 13 at the time, and battling liver cancer. The Make-A-Wish Foundation in the Seattle area, along with hundreds of volunteers, made Erik’s day, which included him saving the day.

Turns out, Spider-Man needed Erik’s help, because Spidey knew Erik was secretly Electron Boy, a hero who uses the power of light to fight evil. So, when Spider-Man made the call, Erik answered:


 

These stories remind us humanity is worth loving, and that it’s worth caring about. The acts of a few don’t speak for the rest of us, and it’s important to remember that when bad things happen.

Comedian Patton Oswalt said it best earlier this week:

I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, ‘Well, I’ve had it with humanity.’

But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. … This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.

But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.

So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, ‘The good outnumber you, and we always will.’

by Richard Hall
Newsroom Developer
Richard Hall is an award-winning newsroom developer, editor and blogger for NewsOK. He was born in Austin, Texas, spent his childhood in southern California and has lived in Norman since 1999. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2008.
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