Let’s Hear the Good News

One of the things I love about this time of year is all the posts and pictures of graduates, prom attendees, and weddings. Spring seems to be the time of new beginnings when people share their family’s good news. I’m certain there is good news during other times of the year, but spring seems to be the season for sharing it the most. Under all the layers of trauma and bad news that seems to monopolize the media streams, I just want to hear more good news.

A consensus of marketing agencies says good news doesn’t sell. I pray that is not really true, but even if it is can’t we change that? Everyone loves a feel-good story. I am not convinced we need to hear the same bad news three of four times per day or per week. It feels like the daily news’s rendition of what’s happening in the world is to keep repeating the bad news until some more bad news happens. Well to be fair, some news networks will end the daily report with at least one good news story. It would be wonderful to have more of those.

Uplifting stories not only make us smile; they give us hope. We take pleasure in knowing people are doing good in the world. When someone is rewarded for their work over and above the call of duty, we feel proud. When the underdog wins and overcomes hard times, we all feel like cheering. Good news is encouraging to everyone in the beloved community. Good news motivates us to do good works as well.

Here are some uplifting stories that made the news in May: “A teenage umpire saves a little leaguer from a dust devil; a WWI soldier’s letter to his mom in 1919 is returned to his granddaughter; a teen broke the scholarship record of ten million dollars and has his choice of 149 colleges; a woman once homeless wins $5M in the California lottery; and a 7th grader stops the school bus from veering into traffic after the driver passes out.” These stories will not be broadcasted over and over again like the last violent act of a shooter. They will not receive additional sound bites like the current politicians whose jargon is more backbiting and falsehood than promises and reform. These inspirational stories will fade into the channels of history never to be mentioned again. We should change this.

As I work with children and teens, I see fear and hopelessness. They are bombarded with bad news. They are preparing for bad news. Stranger danger drills, practices for intruder alerts, cyber bullies, climate change, and the end of the world forecasts are ever present in their environment. How are they to believe they have a bright future ahead? More than that how are they to believe they can make a difference in their world? There are mission-based companies in the fields of technology and science doing good that our youth need to hear about. There are also young people who are exemplifying great leadership abilities by make contributions to their communities right now. Our youth need to know these stories. I enjoy seeing their faces light up when they see or hear stories of incredible young people living their dreams.

Have you heard of Campbell Remess, who created Project 365 when he was 9 years old to give gifts to the kids in a local hospital; or Sidney Keys III, who at age 11 started book clubs under the title: “Books n Bros” to encouraged boys from 8 to 12 to embrace literacy? You can learn about these youths and others by googling “children making a positive difference in 2023.” You can also find them on TED Talks and CNN Young Wonders. There are children who have written books, started non-profits, and become advocates for gun safety. There are adults, especially first responders, who have dedicated their lives to helping others beyond their normal jobs. There are brand new college graduates entering the job market for the first time and they need to know that their efforts can add goodness to our world.

Just today I heard a story of a school janitor who is leading the school chess club to national championship. He actually thanked the job that laid him off and caused him to take this janitorial position. Everyday people in our world are making a positive difference with no fanfare or recognition. Their stories deserve to be told. We can be the town crier. We don’t have to wait for the media moguls to decide what needs to be broadcasted, we can use our platforms to spread the good news. What good thing is going on in your family? Who is making a difference in your community? Have you heard or seen someone going beyond the call of duty to create safety, art, literacy, or awareness in your city? Spread the good news. Tell someone all about it, and ask them to share it with the people in their sphere of influence. At the same time limit the amount of bad news you repeat or listen to. Turn off repetitious broadcasts of heinous acts of violence or nonsensical political rhetoric. Tune into positive change agents and advocates who want to make positive change in our world, personally and geographically.

I’d like to believe every one of this year’s graduates, whether high school or college, will be contributors to the good that we so desperately need to hear and see in our nation. I prefer to imagine every new wedding becoming an outstanding family in communities all over the land, and the proms are just the beginning of many celebrations of overcomers and high achievers. I am determined to be a harbinger of good news, inspirational news, and motivational news even in the midst of trauma and mind-blowing disasters, because these negative things are not the only things that are happening around us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about pretending terrible things don’t happen, I’m talking about not letting them consume everything good.

In the midst of trauma and terrible things happening communities come together to help and support the injured. Individuals turn into charitable manpower contributing time and money to resource material losses. Organizations exist and are being formed to meet the needs of persons whose means have been depleted by nature or by humans. Strangers have leapt to action to rescue endangered children, adults, and animals. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, “Difficult times often bring out the best in people,” but I agree. Sometimes the worst situations and circumstances finds a way to bring out the best in the community; suddenly we become true neighbors. This is good news.

What’s the good news in your neighborhood? family? city? state? Let’s hear it. Come on, share it! Start with your family and friends, then spread it on your media feed. Consider sending an email to your local news commentator. Share it with teachers at the middle or high school. Schedule them for career day at your local elementary school. Perhaps you could invite the person or persons to be guest speakers at your next club meeting or church social. Perhaps you are the source of good news. Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn just a little. You may be just the inspiration someone needs to make a good news move of their own. We can do this.

Let’s become Good News Influencers in our society. Let’s do it for our youth. Let’s do it to spread hope. Let’s do it because it’s the right thing to do. Don’t let spring be the only season to spread the good news.

Morehouse School Medicine Graduates 2023

Fine Tuning for Harmony

I love music, particularly instrumental music. I still remember going to Severance Hall and listening to the Cleveland Orchestra during my childhood. Being in the audience of that beautiful hall and listening to the music of Beethoven, Strauss, and Mozart was a place of enchantment for me. The music captured my spirit and took away to faraway places. Years later, I was blessed to hear the Los Angeles Philharmonic. My adult appetite began to embrace opera and world class musicians and singers like: Jessye Norman, Kathleen Battle, Luciano Pavarotti, Andre Watts, and Yo-Yo Ma. (Just to mention a few.) During the holidays last year, I enjoyed the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. It’s amazing to see how so many instruments and voices can harmonize and make such sweet music.

When you first arrive in a concert hall (or a jazz club) you would not believe that all those people on stage with their various instruments could actually create such beautiful harmonies. Everyone seems to be playing a different note as they warm up and prepare to play. The brass instruments sound like bad drivers honking their horns. The strings sound like cats and babies whining. The woodwinds sound like squeaks and the percussions rumble in the background. Everyone seems to be doing their own thing with no regard for the people around them. Then the conductor takes his or her place and silence permeates the air. The baton is raised, and every note is aligned in perfect harmony. All the fine tuning, all the cacophony disappears into a unified composition of musicianship.

As I watch the students in my class I hope for future unity. As I watch the news and see the various acts of violence, I pray for someone to bring silence and harmony. As I see the heroes and she-roes who sacrifice their time and use their talents to help the homeless and the elderly, I believe human harmony is possible. As I see the youth speaking out against injustice and presenting intelligent ideas about state and federal policies, I am convinced that the different views are the beginning of the fine-tuning process that will bring progress. Every day I ask myself how I can participate in the beloved community to bring more harmony and less dissonance.

Could we fine tune our language to make communication possible between diverse people? Could we fine tune how we express our opinions to allow others the right to have a different opinion without physical conflict? What will it take for us to realize that we are all playing on the same stage called life? We all want the same things: health, happiness, and the means to take care of and protect our families. I’ll admit I probably have more questions than answers, but I believe we each have the ability to influence positive change, especially starting with ourselves.

My ideas, my expectations, my goals, and my efforts today are grounded in the foundations of my grandparents, great grandparents, and parents’ teachings. They embraced the pursuit of happiness, but they did not embrace destroying someone else to get there. They expected every generation to do better than the last but doing better had to include honesty and integrity. They taught us by example to be neighborly and generous because helping someone else was always the right thing to do. They held the baton that taught me how to perform both then and now. So here I am today, trying to figure out how to bring harmony to my small sphere of influence using the tools that they gave me. If it is true that adults (or elders) hold the baton, it is up to us to lead the harmonious composition of love and respect for the next generations.

Well, this post was a little more preachy than I wanted it to be. Yet, I can’t help what motivates my muse to write. I hope something like listening to a beautiful musical composition by a world class orchestra motivates us all to live a better life in community with others.

“Lift Every Voice and Sing, Til Earth and Heaven Ring, Ring With the Harmonies of Liberty…” – James Weldon Johnson

Sentimental Tears

I don’t know why, but I find myself crying more frequently and easier than ever before. I’m not talking about the occasional tear that slides down your face during a touching scene in a movie; I’m talking about sentimental tears that seem to flow at the most inopportune times. Tears based on memories. Tears based on hopes. Tears flowing out of love for people, places, and things. Sentimental tears.

Sentiment is defined as the “exaggerated and self-indulgent feelings of tenderness, sadness, or nostalgia” according to the New Oxford Dictionary. Am I being self-indulgent? When the tears well up, it doesn’t feel self-indulgent. It feels like I’m out of control. It feels like being overcome by unexpected emotions whether sorrow or gladness. It feels like a good thing, yet I find it a little embarrassing – a little too revealing.

There doesn’t seem to be just one thing that makes me feel the tenderness of the moment, or the sadness of the situation, or recapture the nostalgic memories of times gone by. I was watching the news the other day and some charitable organization gave a grandmother a check to take care of her ten or twelve grandchildren. (She was their legal guardian.) I cried. I didn’t know that lady or any of her wards, but it moved me to tears to see her helped and happy. I was reading a mystery novel that ended with the mother being reunited with her kidnapped daughter. I cried. I knew it was fiction. I knew that this story probably did not represent what it would be like in real life, yet it moved me because I thought about the amber alert I had received that morning. A cousin posted videos of her family feeding the homeless in Sacramento. As she scanned the area tears ran down my face. There were so many people living outdoors. It made me so proud to see them sharing their blessings with others, and it also made me realize how blessed I am.

All these sentimental tears made me wonder whether this is one of the things missing from our society, since I’m convinced that sentiment and empathy go hand in hand. According to the dictionary empathy is “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.” Sharing the joy or the sorrow of someone else means you can put yourself in their place/their position. So rather than being self-indulgent, what if we allow ourselves to indulged in the particular feelings, whether situational or emotional, of others. Another definition of sentiment is “a view or an attitude toward a situation or event.” What if our attitude or view was: “Lord, it could have been me.”

On the weekend, my mom and I went to the grocery store and the pet store. As we exited the parking lot, we saw a family holding up a sign. There was a father, a mother, two young children and a baby in a stroller. The sign said: “We need food and diapers. Please help.” My mom said, “Let’s get this family some diapers.” So we headed back to the grocery store. It was then I realized we had no idea what size diapers to buy. We ended up getting a grocery store gift card and a visa gift card. (One from mom and one from me.) When we drove back to the family and gave them the cards, the father and mother cried with gratitude and joy. We cried seeing their joy. We were happy to help because it could have been one of us, or my children, or my neighbors, or anyone from the Beloved Community. COVID-19 has crashed our economy. Any one of us may be one check away from holding a sign in a cold parking lot.

At first, I just wanted to stop being so soft and stop the tears, but now I realize I don’t want to become hardened. I don’t want to hear stories, or see people and feel nothing. I want to hear, see, and feel kin to my fellow citizens and make a difference where I can. How about you? Have you cried for the community lately? Have you rejoiced with happy tears with those who rejoice? Have you cried the tears of sorrow with those who are grieving? Maybe it’s time to shed some sentimental tears. Let empathy show you how.

Be safe. Stay sane. Empathize with others. See yourself as part of the Beloved Community.

Search for the Beloved Community: The Thinking of Martin Luther King Jr.
Search for the Beloved Community examines the thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. and the influences that shaped it. Amazon.com