Fred Niedner: Good news hard to find, but it is there
November 11, 2011 5:20PM
Updated: December 13, 2011 8:55AM
Most of the time, those of us who turn first to the sports pages when we open our daily newspaper can say that at least there we find good news. Since athletic contests usually have winners and losers, half the column inches that recount them give someone reason to rejoice.
Not so these days, as scandal, labor negotiations, and several untimely deaths have shoved aside mere talk of wins, losses, X’s and O’s. For the moment, we can’t shut out the reality that despite the childhood dreams and devotions our attention to sports sustains in us, the athletic-industrial complex is big business and as cutthroat as any other. Heroes, role models and legends in the making perform their magic on playing fields, but off-court and out of uniform they share the same flaws and secrets that haunt the rest of us.
Every so often good news does make headlines, but hardly enough to counterbalance the daily drumbeat announcing murder, mayhem or nature’s assaults on our fragile cities and towns. Surely a handful appeared between those who proclaimed the first polio vaccine in 1955 and last year’s near-miraculous rescue of 33 Chilean miners, but it seems telling how few come quickly to mind.
Periodically, we need reminders that goodness happens daily and most everywhere, though it seldom becomes “news.” I witnessed remarkable but unheralded goodness last week when a friend invited me to a Rotary meeting. When someone reported on the illness of an absent member’s child and the need for expensive, out-of-town hospitalization, group members predictably pledged their thoughts and prayers. They also passed a hat and within a few minutes, the two dozen or so present had gathered nearly $700 to help the family with immediate expenses.
In another time zone, a dear, old soul in my extended family lives out his days partly in the care of hospice workers, one of whom is a young military veteran who comes each day armed with a book of poetry and an infectious spirit of service and generosity. Along with the requisite medical attention, she dispenses cheerfulness, encouragement and as much verse as her grateful patient cares to hear. Most days, he cares to hear plenty. I don’t wish to be in hospice care any time soon, but I might become a better person if I were.
Former students, whose naïveté and garbled syntax once bemused me, go on to do remarkable things. One, I recently learned, directs and raises funds for an organization that helps settle refugees who have escaped dangerous places with their lives and plenty of scars, but little else.
Another once made headlines as an athlete, and in his new coaching position he may do so again. For the moment, however, he does some of his most important work away from any camera’s eye. Sports seasons come and go, he’s found, but each of us gets only one set of parents whose love and care we can give back when their steps falter and it’s our turn to be strong, patient and understanding.
Such things go on continually, all around us. For better or worse, we take such ordinary goodness for granted and consider as “news” the few but shocking breaches in the fabric that holds us together. As George Eliot mused in the last lines of the novel “Middlemarch,” “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”