Choosing Goodness by Gevura Davis
It seems like unfortunately, every day or every week, the world and the news is rocked by hate and tragedy. It’s becoming painfully difficult to shelter our children from the broken world they live in. The Tel Aviv shooting. Sexual assault on college campuses. Bloodshed in Orlando. Political vitriol and painful divides among people. Mr. Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy, and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Yes, we have to teach our children about realities, about the need for reform, how to protect themselves. But, we also have to focus on the love, on the heroes, and the possibility for human greatness, even in the worst of times. And, every time, they are there, the heroes, using their free will to create light to combat the darkness. The world is replete with goodness in the face of tragedy. Like the two Swiss bikers who instead of turning a blind eye, interrupted a violent crime at Stanford University. Or the hundreds of strangers who waited all day in the heat to donate blood in Orlando. Or the man who comforted a stranger with a gunshot wound and saved his life by offering him hope and using his clothes to cut off blood loss. There is kindness amidst darkness all around.
After tragedies, we often read that people around the world offer up their “thoughts and prayers.” I have been discouraged to see those sentiments mocked, relegated to hollow words or called “nice, but not what we need.” It is extremely important to do what needs to be done here, whatever is deemed by people smarter than me as essential for making the world a safer place. Thoughts and prayers, however, are a critical component in addition to all of the physical things that need to be done. Thoughts and prayers go directly to the Almighty G-d, who created a system of human intervention in the course of the universe. Although there is no guarantee we will ever get what we want, no prayer is unheard, even if we can’t see the answer immediately. Beyond the spiritual manifestations of the inherent good that prayer brings to the world, it also has a strong impact on the people praying and thinking about others. It helps us to realize that we are small in the face of a vast world. It teaches us to become caring people who are interested in the welfare of total strangers. It opens up our capacity for compassion. Prayer and thoughtfulness helps us achieve our purpose in this world, which is to cultivate ourselves into G-dly beings.
There is a Jewish concept that when we are faced against physical enemies who want to destroy peace, like the Jews in the Purim story, we respond with a spiritual war. Yes, Esther devised a thoughtful plan and took action, but only after she and the entire people fasted and prayed. We are facing a scary world and unsettling times, it’s easy to feel helpless and distraught, resigned to accept there is nothing we can do. There is one thing we can always do and that is choose goodness. Be the light in the lives of others. Teach our children there is always hope, for we can always do more kindness and we can always pray. It is not nothing as some might suggest. It is all we’ve got and it is everything.
Gevura Davis is an educator who currently works as the Director of Women, Youth and Family Division of the Etz Chaim Center in Elkins Park, outside of Philadelphia. She recently moved from Kansas City with her husband and five children.