Every Sunday morning my sweetie and I receive the newspaper at our home. The bundle of information is nearly always full of national and local news – but it also contains “extra” goodies like comics, circulars, and mini-magazines.
One of the more notable pamphlets is USA Weekend. Each week I quickly flip through the dozen pages, skimming headlines and pausing to read any piece that looks interesting. Occasionally I find a decent recipe to try or a new book to check out from the library. However, over the past two weeks I have received something a bit more unexpected: words of inspiration, from two rather unlikely sources.
Bill O’Reilly wrote a mid-length piece for the magazine about compassion and volunteerism. I’m not a “Factor” fan, and generally I don’t appreciate this man’s particular brand of politics. However, the opening line of his article caused me to pause and take notice. O’Reilly began the piece by stating, “When it comes to volunteerism, I never ask people about their politics.” Hmm. Startled by an objective point of view from a usually overly-opinionated individual, I was intrigued enough to keep reading. O’Reilly continued the piece by explaining, “We must take politics out of compassion. When you donate blood, nobody asks you whether you’re a liberal or a conservative. Recipients certainly don’t care, do they? They’re just grateful that someone gave so they could get better.” Wow. Wisdom, from what I consider an unlikely source. Wow.
A few paragraphs later in the piece, O’Reilly wrote, “Tough times bring out the best in America’s patriots. But it’s not enough to respond after a disaster. We have to incorporate community service throughout our daily lives… Consider what you could do if you spent a few hours less each week posting status updates to Facebook or watching You Tube videos. If you could take this time and devote it to a cause – any good cause – you’ll make an impact… All you need to do is call an organization and ask, ‘How can I help?’ Making a difference may simply amount to dropping off books for an after-school program or groceries at a soup kitchen. There is no ‘one road’ here; you can discover your own path.” Here here, Mr. O’Reilly. Preach!
Fast forward seven days. As I skimmed the next edition of USA Weekend, I saw a multi-page article about Brad Pitt. I’m not big into ‘celebrity’, and while Pitt seems to do a lot of good with his fame, power, money, and influence, I still don’t like to spend my time reading about his upcoming movies. Yet one statement in the piece caught my attention – and caused me to pause, then smile. When asked about whether Pitt was concerned about the future of the world, he explained, “I think the world’s going to be all right. I think we will always by nature tip too far in one direction, and by great acts of humanity bring it in the other direction…. Actually, in war, you may see the worst of human nature, but you also see the very best. Any catastrophe brings out the best of human nature. That’s what I think will always be there to pull us back on track. So I don’t worry about the world as a whole.” As my brain processed the words my eyes were seeing, I found myself nodding in agreement with Mr. Pitt. I have seen humans hurt one another in crushing ways; but I have also been blessed to see powerful acts of help and comfort, too.
I felt both encouraged and reassured by the messages in the two articles. Certainly every human has the capacity to be selfish, cold, and even hurtful; but every human also has the ability to be caring, compassionate, and loving. And acts of aid need not be sweeping or dramatic; sometimes a small, well-timed gesture can be incredibly powerful.
Case in point: For the past two days, the metro area I live in has been pounded by heavy rain and assaulted by violent wind. Tens of thousands of people have been without electricity in their homes for over 24 hours, and just as many people have spent a considerable amount of time and energy clearing downed trees from their property and tending to other damages. My husband and I have been fortunate: We only lost power for six hours last night, and our home/yard has not experienced any problems thus far. This morning I drove to the grocery store, careful to avoid all of the debris that littered the roads; when I arrived, I saw the following message:
I smiled, grateful for yet another clear example that a relatively small act of compassion can sustain a big impact – and that our human desire to do good in the world simply will not/cannot be contained.