Sometimes you just need a reminder of what life is, or should be, about.
My friends and family know I'm a little bit of a music nerd in addition to being a word nerd (and sociology nerd, history nerd, etc. ... I'm just an all-around nerd). Occasionally, in addition to musical theater, my friend Sarah will invite me to choral concerts. This time it was River City Men's Chorus.
It had been a long while since I'd been to one of the group's concerts; I think I remember reviewing the chorus once not long after it was formed 20 years ago, but then I moved on to the copy desk, then the opinion section and hadn't had the time. I'd forgotten how amazing these singers are, and the message of this particular show, "Heal the World," really hit home for me; the songs were chosen with the intent to inspire good works and a better world.
What we have to remember, said conductor and founder David A. Glaze, is the concept of humankindness (one word). Admittedly, that can be hard to do in a world where some are so focused on purposely dividing us, playing to their base and being offended not really because of someone else's worldviews but because that someone belongs to a group they've been conditioned to hate. People who, if they didn't know that about them, they might get along with.
In the program, Glaze wrote: "Our world is in such disarray and turmoil that it seems the perfect time to concentrate on ways in which we can heal the world. It may seem a daunting, if not impossible task, but we can all take a small step every day to make the world a better place. A word of kindness, getting to know a new neighbor, or becoming involved in a community project are all ways that can make a real difference for one person, our communities or the whole world."
That's what I wish a lot of people would understand. Small steps are still progress, and if enough people make those small steps, suddenly we're headed in the right direction rather than just grousing that it's not worth doing if others aren't taking part. This goes for so many things, like climate change: Why should the U.S. try to reduce its carbon footprint if China and India aren't making an effort? Because it's the right thing to do, and if enough people see the right thing being done, we'll convince more to do the same. We are, after all, called by the Bible to be good stewards ... of the Earth, our souls, our communities and fellow humankind.
As Maya Angelou, whose words inspired the song "United in Purpose," said, "The onus is upon us all to work to improve the human condition. Perform good deeds, for that is truly the way to battle the forces of entropy that are at work in our world. The composite of all our efforts can have an effect. Good done anywhere is good done everywhere."
Or we can just keep being hateful to each other. That's certainly good for the soul, isn't it?
Along the lines of being called to do good was the song "I Am That Man," inspired by President Barack Obama's 2009 inauguration speech and commissioned and premiered later that same year by the River City Men's Chorus:
Though we live in troubled times,
this is not a time to fear.
One man can make a difference.
What I must do is clear.
I will arise to love. I will arise to lead.
I will arise to serve no matter what the need.
Not by might or power,
but with gentleness of heart,
with courage and compassion,
I will gladly do my part.
The time is now for someone to take a stand.
I am that man.
I try to be that person, but I fail sometimes. The important thing is to keep trying.
If you're close to Little Rock, there's one more performance of Heal the World, and I urge you to go if you can (it's free!). The last performance will be 7 p.m. Thursday at St. James United Methodist Church, 321 Pleasant Valley Drive.
Longtime readers know my issues with incivility and unrestrained hatred of "the other."
We could all stand to be kinder, but the world makes it hard sometimes, with online trolls, imperious leaders who insist on their way or the highway, divisive rhetoric and more all conspiring to bring us down to their level so they can then play the victim and name-call if they're called out on their words and/or actions (ahem, calling everyone you don't like pedophiles and groomers is just uncalled for and should be beneath reasonable people).
It's frustrating sometimes to see how much the attitudes and hate of a few can ruin things for everyone. No wonder so many don't see any point in trying to make the world, or at least their little corner of it, a bit better.
So I have a challenge. Spend just one day being kind. Don't respond to people trying to bait you. Give someone a sincere compliment. Open the door for others. Visit someone who is lonely. Offer to take care of chores for an incapacitated neighbor or friend. Do anything that helps someone else have a better day.
Practice humankindness, and be a better human. By being a better human, humankind as a whole is made better.
Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Email her at email@example.com. Read her blog at blooper0223.wordpress.com.