Saturday, December 24, 2022

The People We Don’t Know

It is dark and cold. The year is coming to an end. Each year at this time we have a tendency to look back. We try to make sense of the last twelve months before moving on. Perhaps we just want to recount what has been important to us so we don’t forget. 

This post is dedicated to all the good people we don’t know. 

Columbia/HoCo is filled with so many organizations and initiatives that do good things. I write about them a lot here. If I attempted to list them all I’d be sure to forget some, so I won’t. Today I want to dedicate this space to all in our community who perform unknown acts of kindness, both large and small. I may not know them but I know that our year has been leavened by their gifts.

They are the completely unorganized and probably unaffiliated league of do-gooders. Honestly, life is not worth living without them. They are the light that shines against the darkness. They are the one small thing that happens in your day that keeps it from being an utter disaster.

Who are they? 

  • The person who brings in all the bins from the road when the wind blows them over after trash collection day. 
  • …says something supportive in an unkind discussion on social media.
  • …leaves a small gift outside the house of a homebound neighbor.
  • …makes their home a safe space for teens to hang out.
  • …buys beautiful children’s books for the Little Free Library.
  • …listens in a meeting, truly listens and doesn’t hasten to pass judgement.
  • …moves over so your family can sit together at the school concert.
  • …opens the door when you are over-burdened with packages.
  • …picks up trash in their neighborhood or in the park.
  • …lets your car in when you are trying to merge.
I think you know what I mean. Right now in Columbia/HoCo these people are opening their homes to neighbors without power, or offering extra blankets. They are the ones who bought an extra box of stuffing mix “just in case” and, of course you may have one. They engage in friendly conversation in long, pre-holiday lines at the store. If your child is struggling to get a glimpse of Santa, they move out of the way. They are wearing masks to protect the health of those around them. 

They smile, even behind their masks, and you know it. Because their eyes are smiling.

Leaders and elected officials do much to make our community a good place to live. Nonprofits that provide necessary supports and/or enhance quality of life do incredibly valuable work. But none of this would hold together were it it not for the inclination to do good that moves in so many people we don’t know.

They won’t make the newspaper or television news. They won’t have a building named after them or win a prestigious award. They are the people who take from their lives an extra moment, or resource, or skill, and put it out into the world. Sometimes they are us.

Now, none of us is “that person” all the time. But the fact that enough of us keep making those choices, even in very difficult times, is a beautiful and miraculous affirmation of community life.

There are eight days left in 2022. Be on the lookout. Allow yourself to enjoy the simple, unexpected gifts of human kindness. Throw a few of your own into the universe as you say farewell to this year and look towards the new one.

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