By Ankit Rao
Turn on the news or read the papers of 2017 and you would be forgiven for thinking that we were all actors in an end-of-the-world movie, for we were constantly bombarded with media reports of corrupt governments, fraudulent business practices, religious fanatics, terror attacks, climate change, environmental destruction, threats of nuclear war, racist attacks, and sexual harassment. It’s enough to make anyone feel anxious and lose hope.
Being aware of destructive and negative actions in the world may inspire us to make a stand for justice and integrity in the face of immoral behaviour, but when newspaper reports, television channels and social media bombard us with hourly atrocities, then we may get caught in a riptide of negativity and pessimism that instead of enabling us to act, causes us to drown in overwhelming waves of fear and hopelessness.
But with so much negativity reported, is there actually any goodness, joy, or happiness in the world? Is there any hope?
We may look for big extravagant acts of kindness that are on a par with the size of the large terror attacks we hear about, but if we look deeply and are mindful enough, we can see that there are many small acts of joyfulness and compassion throughout the day, which can amount to a big change in people lives. They may not be reported as breaking news on TV, nor sit front page on newspapers, but that does not mean they don’t exist, and that they don’t have a positive effect on the world around us.
As I walk from Dallas Road, through James Bay, and into town every day, I try to keep my eye out for these moments of goodness. Sometimes they reveal themselves as a customer holding the door open for me as I enter a local store, or that hug I receive from a loved one, or even a friend asking me how I feel and then just listening to me.
I have to walk past many of our city’s homeless on my way to work, yet my disappointment that there are people in Victoria who do not yet have a home was eclipsed by seeing volunteers who cook food and hand out clothes to them.
While in town, I saw strangers helping mothers with baby strollers up stairs, customers taking the time to be friendly with cashiers, young people giving up their seat on a bus to those in need, passers-by picking up someone else’s rubbish and putting it in a bin, compliments given to strangers on their choice of jewelry and outfit, and walkers marvelling at the beauty of nature in Beacon Hill Park and along Dallas Road.
Over the holidays, this goodness was revealed by a gift I was given that I did not specifically ask for, but showed that the giver had taken the time to appreciate my interests and used this insight to surprise me with a thoughtful present.
We all look outside of ourselves for examples of kindness, yet forget about the positive effects of self-compassion. Therefore when I hear of overworked colleagues taking that extra time in bed by sleeping in, or taking a hot bath, or going on holiday and then returning refreshed, it brings me joy.
Of course all this positivity does not mean that one should be ignorant of the terrible events that we see and hear about, because as we learn about the negative ills of the world, we can decide to make a change for the better. Seeing the world only as a venomous and malicious place however, offers a false narrative of what our planet is like, which is just as untrue as viewing the world as one full of light and joy. It is not a choice between viewing our world in a positive light or in a negative one, for it’s a balance of both, but our challenge is that we are presently plagued with a one-sided avalanche of negative stories about humanity.
So do I have hope?
Well strange as it sounds, actually, no, I don’t.
The definition of hope is to want or expect something good to happen in the future. But there is no need for hope, because goodness is all around us in the here and now, and we can all take the time at the end of each day to reflect on the joy and compassion we see. My resolution this year is to open my eyes to this positivity and be mindful of it.