Amazing human alert, said the man who shared a story of dropping his wallet at a road intersection while on his motorbike. The wallet was picked up by Themba Tinzi – a Big Issue seller – who went to great lengths to track the wallet owner down. Themba tried calling numbers on the cards in the wallet, asked around people in the Newlands, Cape Town area, before approaching one of his regular customers who lives nearby for help. The regular customer eventually tracked the owner down, and the wallet was returned some three days later, with cash, ID, driver's license and credit cards all intact!
Themba Tinzi is a reminder to us all that people are basically good, kind, helpful and willing to help. It is so easy to forget this, bombarded as we often are by news and social media with the very opposite of the goodness of human'kind'.
It is one of my clients who made me aware of this other meaning to the word. Yes, we are meant to be human -kind. Kind Humans. This is something inherently programmed in us. We are born basically good.
Director Chloe Zhao dedicated her recent Oscar award to:
“anyone who has the faith and courage to hold onto
the goodness in themselves and in each other”.
She added that everywhere she has gone in the world she has always found goodness in the people she has met. She also quoted from the ancient Chinese Three Character Classic:
'people at birth are inherently good'.
What a wonderful message to the world, and how aptly put! Because holding onto the goodness in ourselves and in others is no small feat!
The duality of good and evil permeates our thinking, our decision making, our religion and even our concept of God.
How would we live our lives if we were to believe that everyone, yes, everyone, was inherently good? If we were to greet the divinity in everyone we met. Silently. Heart to heart. This was my practice for many decades, from childhood into my thirties, which I somewhere along the line forgot, and which I am re-instituting right away.
It does not mean we blithely sugar coat danger. It means we choose the good. We hold onto the good. Tightly, with both hands, against the odds, against prevailing norms and beliefs, against even evidence itself, and we fight! We fight for that good. With courage and faith we refuse to succumb to other alternatives.
I will tell you a story which happened in my early teens. I was at school and I was hitch hiking to go and see someone in hospital far away. The what and whys of that is a whole long other story which I'll skip here. Suffice to say that even in my day, hitchhiking was not on.
I was picked up by a rather dodgy looking man in a truck. He set off, and soon after turned off the highway down a dusty side road. Alarm prickled down my spine. Shortcut, he said.
Right there and then, I fought for the good. I grabbed his arm and I silently beseeched him while I spoke. I asked him if he was a father, if he had a daughter. He did. I told him I was so happy he had picked me up, that hitchhiking could be dangerous but that I was safe with him. I told him he would look after me and take care of me, because he was a father and I could trust him. I continued in this vain for some time, while he drove further away from civilisation and deeper into the bush.
Suddenly he stopped, turned the truck around, and headed back for the motorway.
We drove in total silence until he reached over to open the door, and as I was climbing out he said, 'Do up your top buttons'. I was wearing a short knitted top with tiny little pearl buttons, which had somehow come undone most of the way down.
I totally believe that if I had not fought for the good that day, my trip may not have had such a happy ending. My practice of connecting with the good in others has kept me safe many, many times in my life – together with my guardian angels of course.
Plato claimed that along with concepts like 'beauty' and 'justice', the 'good' is real, but exists as an eternal standard in a transcendental sphere. No less important for Plato, once you truly perceive the 'good', you have no choice but to act on it.
The Platonic and Confucian notion of inherent goodness is at odds with the doctrine of some Christians that everyone is born sinful with a built in urge to disobey God and do bad things.
Diverse research at both Harvard and Yale with babies, shows that babies pick the 'good' puppets and 'good' activities over the bad, proving an inherent predisposition towards goodness. Babies as young as three months old show moral awareness. They are also instinctively helpful.*
The Christian belief of original sin as a condition one is born into was actually put forward by St Augustine and accepted as Roman Catholic doctrine in the 16th century.
It is not shared by Orthodox Christianity, Baptists, Pentecostals and many other Christian faiths. Judaism has no doctrine of original sin either - man enters the world free of sin, with a soul that is pure, innocent and untainted. This is echoed by Islam.
In Hindu as well as Buddhist dharma, there is also no concept of original sin – there is ignorance, and wrongful actions that can arise from that ignorance.
The majority of religions and paths therefore, resonate with a belief in the inherent goodness in people. The divine spark that lives within each and every heart, with a predisposition to do good, to be helpful and kind, and to benefit others.
We would do well to remind ourselves of this inherent goodness and to walk through the world spreading it with our words, thoughts and activity.
We do not need to look far each day to see evidence of this truth, especially in these times, where we see so much good, so much open heartedness and generosity from both individuals and companies all around us.
I recently read in the Washington Post of a woman who has fostered 81 infants over three decades! Linda Owens, now 78 and living in Carolina says she remembers each and every one of the infants, and has so enjoyed caring for them – this despite the fact that many of them require specialised care and feeding every few hours.
How incredible for a single woman, of modest means to be doing something like this! Linda is a human resources worker, unmarried and with no children, living in an apartment. Yet she has brought a mother's love and caring to babies at a time when they needed it most..
We salute you amazing human!
Other amazing humans - the owners of several restaurants in a northeastern corner of Oklahoma have created a giving wall to help a community hard hit by the pandemic, and where there is already a 23% poverty line. Anyone can walk in, pull down a receipt and order a meal free of charge. The receipts are put there by customers who prepay for food and tack them to the wall, leaving them on offer for anyone who is hungry. No tips expected, no questions asked.
Amazing humans and human'kind' ness abounds!
So whatever is happening, whatever is going on, we need to continue to believe in the inherent goodness which resides in each and every heart. Then we try to talk to that. We draw it out, we appeal to it, we connect with it, and so ground it and help it to grow. We have no bigger or more important task than that in this world.
Let us re-kind-le human'kind'!
Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible. Dalai Lama