The world is not a happy place at the moment. From the escalating violence in the Middle East, to the rise of Boko Haram in Africa, to the epidemic of gun violence in the United States, to the increasingly violent situation in Ukraine, good news is hard to find among the tragic headlines and ever rising body count. Last week, the world was stunned by the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 when it was shot down over eastern Ukraine by a surface-to-air missile, and I suppose the only bright spot to be found in this horrific story is the fact that the world can still be stunned by a senseless act of violence in an era where bloodshed and slaughter are so tragically common.
It has been a week since I first woke up to those terrible headlines announcing MH17’s sad fate, and the gruesome photos of the crash site that have been beamed around the world have only made this story seem more surreal. However, even more than the photos, the hardest part of this event is the stories of the 298 people who lost their lives on that flight. Almost immediately, the pictures and profiles of these innocent victims who got caught in someone else’s fight began to appear online and in the news media, and invariably, stories of how wonderful they were began to emerge. We hear about how they were kind, generous, and loving, and how they didn’t deserve to die, and once again, those who remain are left to wonder why these terrible things keep happening to good people. This is the common refrain of these tragedies, and it has made me question on more than one occasion whether or not a just world really is possible, but whenever I begin to despair, I remind myself that bad things happen to good people not because of some cruel cosmic joke, but simply because of the math.
Every time something horrible happens that destroys your faith in humanity, humanity gives us the heroes and the helpers who pick up the pieces, tend to the wounded, and salute the fallen. Evidence of this is everywhere. For every starving child there people trying to feed them. For every bomber who blows up a bus, there are hundreds of ordinary people who rush to do what they can to help those on board. For every natural disaster that wipes out whole communities, there are thousands of people who donate money, supplies, and their time to get those communities re-built and back on their feet. For every shocking act of violence, there are millions of random acts of kindness happening all over the world, many of which will never go reported, but each and every one doing their part to heal our battered souls.
Our world is a broken place, and the problems that people face on a daily basis in every country often seem insurmountable, but when the daily deluge of terrible news stories threaten to overwhelm, I always take a deep breath, close my eyes, and remember the words of that most wonderful human being, Mister Rogers:
There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbours and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.
When we hear the stories of the victims of senseless tragedies, and we hear what good people they were, we can take heart in the fact that bad things don’t just happen to good people. Bad things happen to good people because the statistics demand it. Bad things happen to good people because I believe with all my heart and soul that the vast majority of people on this planet are good people, and so when tragedy strikes, it is inevitable that good people will always pay the price. This will never change, because the number of people who want to destroy our world will never come close to the number of people who want to save it. When our time on this earth is over, and all that is left of us are the stories we leave behind, I hope that our legacy is that we were a race of helpers. I hope that among all the tales of war, killings, and violence, the real story shines through. That when the few came at us with anger, intolerance, and hatred, the many responded with kindness, compassion, and love.