Note: This is an adaptation of an article from the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California at Berkeley
As we begin 2017, many of us are reflecting on the year that has just ended. I think most of us can agree, it has been rough. Acts of terror and violence continue around the world and in our own country, the election was filled with anger and its results have caused rifts in families and communities that seem irreconcilable, and celebrities who brought joy to so many passed away at what felt like an alarming rate. With all that we have struggled through, it can be hard to remember that there are also reasons to feel good about our world and the people who inhabit it. But it is during such difficult times that it is even more important to acknowledge extraordinary actions by seemingly ordinary people.
Here, in no particular order, are just a few moments of inspiration and hope:
During the 5000-metre race at the Rio Olympics, Nikki Hamblin of New Zealand fell, causing Abbey D’Agostino to stumble during the race. Rather than let the heat of competition overtake her, D’Agostino instead helped Hamblin get up, and the two finished the race together.
Following the horrific mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, a call went out that blood donations were needed. Hundreds of people waited for hours in the Florida heat to donate, while others from the community came with water and snacks, forming connection and community in an effort to combat terror and hate.
While working on expansion of the Memorial Children’s Hospital of South Bend, Indiana, construction worker Jason Haney noticed that young patients were watching the work through hospital windows. Hoping to brighten their day, Mr. Haney built an 8-foot-tall Waldo and put it in different spots around the construction site. For months, the children have been playing a real-life “Where’s Waldo?” and Mr. Haney and the other construction workers have more entertainment planned.
On July 7, five police officers were ambushed and shot in Dallas, increasing fear and anger throughout the country. During protests following this incident, activists from Black Lives Matter and counter-protesters waving American and Texas flags encountered each other. Rather than increasing verbal and potentially physical violence, and police Sgt. Jeff Hall brought the groups together for dialogue and prayer.
After the 2016 election, Justin Normand of Irving, Texas became a bit of an unintentional celebrity. When armed anti-Muslim protesters gathered around a mosque, Mr. Normand, with a cowboy hat, boots, and facial hair any Texan would be proud of, stood alone in front of the mosque holding a sign that said simply and plainly, “You belong.”
Moving into a new year, let’s all take inspiration from these and so many other stories of small and large acts of generosity, courage, and kindness, and work toward healing from a very difficult year.
Marcia Mofson, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist