What a fine morning today. The snow was gently falling, reindeer tracks marked the rooftops and police were responding to a call about a fat man stuck in someone’s chimney.
What, you’re saying that didn’t happen? Fair enough. Neither did peace on Earth and good will toward men. But it doesn’t mean we can’t keep trying. Like many other goals, the point is in the journey even more than the destination.
It is worth a few moments today, then, to reflect on the ways in which humans inspire, invigorate and amaze each other with their generosity, their ingenuity and their sheer determination to do good. The examples are not hard to find for anyone who is open to seeing them.
Example No. 1: The overwhelming response to a letter in The News on Tuesday from a woman upset because her friend could not afford the insulin that her cat needs. In calls to the woman and to The News, there were offers to provide insulin or money to buy it. One caller suggested lowering the cost by buying from Canadian pharmacies.
It’s little enough, perhaps, but people weren’t under any obligation to call and, no doubt, they had other things they could do with their time. Instead, they reached beyond themselves to comfort a stranger and serve the interests of an animal. It is, in its small way, humanity at its best.
Example No. 2: At the RiverBend project, where construction is under way on the hemisphere’s largest solar manufacturing plant, workers are unearthing the remnants of the site’s steel-manufacturing past. Among the discoveries were a pair of conical, 10-foot turbines that once generated electricity for Republic Steel. Workers have transformed one of these hulking industrial relics into a Christmas tree, decorated with lights and colorfully painted tools once used by the steelworkers. A star perches on its top.
Christmas comes to a former industrial wasteland. Go ahead. Try not to smile.
Example No. 3: As events have threatened to spin out of control in New York City, one unlikely family has stepped up to try to settle things down. Eric Garner died earlier this year after a police officer put him in a choke hold. Protests followed, and on Saturday, a man with mental issues murdered two city police officers, apparently in retaliation.
It was a moment fraught with tension, exacerbated by accusations of blame, when in stepped Garner’s bereaved family. They offered condolences to the slain officers’ families and pleaded for demonstrators to avoid violence. You don’t have to take sides in the Garner tragedy to understand the service his distraught family performed for the reeling city.
Example No. 4: Pope Francis, leader of the Catholic Church and inspiration to millions of people around the world, begins the work of redeeming a faith beset by scandal by living humbly, washing the feet of the poor and, only days ago, using his Christmas speech to take on some of the un-Christmas-like conduct by the Vatican bureaucracy. Notably, he identified himself among the sinners. It’s leadership of a sort we are not much used to seeing these days.
There are many other instances of humans rising above their own interests to make a difference where they can, and if it sometimes seems there aren’t enough of them to counter those who casually debase our common humanity, it’s at least a start.
Peace on Earth and good will toward men may be a difficult reach, but at least we have examples to raise up on a day whose promise is redemption.