The title of this essay comes from a quote from journalist Charles Kuralt:
“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.” -Charles Kuralt
I find the quote to be centering, concerned as I am that if we get even more polarized we are going to individually become versions of our worst selves and collectively we are going to become a mean, dispirited country.
Mahatma Gandhi famously told us, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”
To me, that means I need to focus on seeing the positive and not getting overwhelmed by the negative. It means I need to contribute to positive things taking place, and point out to others the positive things I see. It might mean I need to turn off the news, especially when the stories are negative and I don’t really need to know about them. Instead, I can rub my wife’s shoulders or take our dog for a walk.
Research tells us that we need three positive messages to balance out one negative. And since we all are bombarded with negative messages, I’m suggesting we all need quite a few positive messages. So to be the change, seek to find positive messages for yourself and promote them to others.
What can count as a positive message?
Anything that makes you feel good that doesn’t harm someone or something else. For me, I look for the ordinary kindnesses that take place around us all the time, counting each as a positive message in my ledger. To make this work, though, I need to take the time to consciously recognize them.
Here are a few examples I’ve counted:
- Someone giving up their seat on public transportation
- Someone holding open a door for a stranger
- Letting someone go ahead in a grocery store line
- Buying someone a beverage
- Positively acknowledging someone
- Children’s laughter on a playground
- The gift of flowers
- A sunrise
- A mountain view
- An adult bending down to truly listen to a child
- A dog’s wagging tail
- A warm smile…
About Charles Kuralt, he was a reporter for CBS News who himself grew a bit disillusioned with the negative. In the 1970’s he was granted permission to take a mobile home and a camera crew to travel the back roads of America in search of good news. His program “On the Road” followed, a positive news segment that lives on long after Kuralt’s death.
A few years ago I found a DVD set of the old “On the Road” series. Compared to today’s slick production and fast edits, the show is quite quaint. But that’s part of its charm.
One of my favorite stories is about a person named Jethro Mann in North Carolina who fixed up broken bikes so every kid in town could have one. When Mann died in 2013, a local TV station referenced Kuralt in their story, which included an adult banker who credited Mann for serving as a positive male role model when he was a small child.
Take a look and then, hopefully inspired, I encourage you to go out and find the positive.