Saturday, July 30, 2011


A while back, I was in a restaurant, near a table where a couple with two kids was having a meal. One of the kids was sitting nicely, eating her food and trying, in an appropriate voice, to talk to her parents. I'll call her Good. The other one was slipping off the chair, creeping around under the table, whining loudly about how he didn't want the food that was awaiting his attention on the table. I'll call him Evil.

The parents were clearly at a loss what to do about Evil. They started by telling him to get up off the floor and sit at the table to eat. He didn't. He hollered, "I don't WANT to eat." For a few moments, the parents tried to ignore Evil. They went on with their meal as he slung himself around on the floor, whining "No!" and "I don't LIKE that." Father of Evil leaned down under the table and tried to reason with him, pointing out that the food was what Evil had ordered, and he should get up off the floor and eat. Evil loudly expressed that he wanted ice cream, not his meal, and the parents seemed to not get that Evil didn't need more cajoling or threatening--he needed to be removed from polite company. This went on for a while, as poor little Good tried several times to tell her parents about an item she had seen in a store. Each time she would start to speak, Evil would kick up again, and the parents would return their attention to Evil. Eventually, Good stopped talking and looked sad, Evil continued to misbehave, and parents purchased Evil ice cream, which was SUPPOSED to be for after the meal, but of course was not.

So, evil might not be stronger than good, but it does have a bigger mouth. Evil kind of sucks all the air out of the room, to the point where the parents and probably most everyone else were watching Evil and never noticed Good. And Evil wound up getting the ice cream.

Likewise, you could go around all day being nice to strangers--holding doors for them, smiling and saying good morning, picking stuff up when they dropped it, or letting them cut in line in front of you, and no one but them notices. Sometimes even they barely seem to. But if you go around all day shooting strangers, it's in the news worldwide. Even though shooting someone doesn't take a lot more time or effort than being nice to them, evil gets the ice cream.

We can help to even the playing field, though. First, we can try to stop staring at evil. Shut off the weeks long circus trial, the in-poor-taste reality shows, the partisan attack politics "news," and the "sky is falling and it's all the _________'s (insert unpopular racial/ethnic, political, or religious group here) fault" explanations for the state of our world. Unfortunately, there's more than enough blame to go around to all.

And second, we can try to give good a megaphone, so that its small voice can be heard over evil kicking up. So today, I'm going to go out and find someone to make a fuss over--in a good way. Maybe I'll find a nice clerk at the grocery store whom I can report to the manager for being friendly. Maybe I'll see well-behaved kid somewhere and I can tell him or her, or the appropriate parental unit, that they're a great kid. Or maybe I'll just have to wing it and compliment someone's outfit. And then, if that puts them in a better mood, and they're nicer to someone else, and that person is nicer to someone, and that person is nicer to someone---well then I've sort of spiffed up a whole corner of my spiritual neighborhood with absolutely no skin off my own nose.

Chances are it's not going to make the news--at least not today. But it gives good a voice, and I don't have to shoot anyone.

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