What's Tony Thinking

There Is Still Goodness in the World


It’s been a hard week in a difficult time. In his weekly column David Brooks called the current times “brutalizing,” and added, “Everywhere I go, people are coping with an avalanche of negative emotions: shock, pain, contempt, anger, anxiety, fear.”

The hard stuff is all around us. People in tents, sleeping on cardboard on city’s streets as winter comes on. Figurative bombs on social media. Literal bombs falling in Gaza and Israel. Congress cutting off support for Ukraine, or trying to. American college campuses where it is chic to celebrate the brutality of Hamas and intimidate Jewish students.

In a conversation a friend spoke of a church, “as a place where people can go just to be reminded that there is still goodness in the world.”

We’re all needing that, aren’t we? Places, communities and experiences that remind us that there is still goodness in this world. Where do you go to be reminded of that? I thought I might share a few experiences I’ve had in the last week that have reminded me of the goodness in our world.

My book group gathered last weekend at the home of one member who hosted us for an overnight. We welcomed a new member, new blood being always good. Over meals our conversations were long and deep. One of the guys spoke of the work he and his wife have done training service dogs, including dogs capable of monitoring dangerous blood sugar drops in their people. With such a dog in the home, parents of a child with diabetes had — for the first time — got a night’s sleep. There is still goodness in the world.

Early in the week we hosted a meet and greet for our City Council member, Dan Strauss, who is up for re-election on Tuesday. Neighbors filed in and engaged in honest conversation about tough issues. When one asked Dan about homelessness and encampments, he couldn’t help himself . . . he began to weep. Not phony tears or put-on emotion. The weight of such a tough challenge, of the seemingly intractable suffering. There is still goodness in the world.

I’ve had some dental work done this week. I tell my dentist that I am grateful to be living in times of modern dental care, and truly I am. But I am also impressed with her dedication, competence and humor — and that of her staff. Their caring is real, their practice sound. I’m grateful. There is still goodness in the world.

Yesterday, I had an on-line meeting with colleagues as we prepare for an event later this month related to my work with the Vancouver School of Theology and its theological field education program. A young Korean-Canadian spoke about finding his voice in a predominantly Caucasian denomination, the United Church of Canada. He does “food theology.” “We all have food in common, and food expresses our culture and shares it with others.” There is still goodness in the world.

In the same conversation a young (I guess they’re all young to me these days) Anglican priest recalled the parting words of advice from her own Field Work supervisor, “When it gets hard (in ministry), go to the hospital.” Meaning, “Go visit the members of your congregation who are in the hospital. It will keep things in perspective.” I found that to be true as a pastor. I could be down and would have to drag myself to the hospital for visits. But strangely, those visits would be helpful, even up-lifting. You get out of yourself. There is still goodness in the world.

One evening Linda and watched a movie on Netflix that we’d never heard of, “The Starling.” About a couple who lose their baby to SIDS and then lose each other . . . and how, in the end, they find each other again. Every marriage has times when we lose one another, and — if we’re fortunate — times when we find one another, again. There is still goodness in the world.

Late in the week, a walk with a long-time friend to check-in, talk about what’s good and what’s hard. We sat on a log in Seattle’s Golden Gardens Park and watched the waves of a wind-swept Puget Sound crash on the beach. We compared notes on how aging brings invisibility and laughed. There is still goodness in the world.

Yes, we live in brutalizing times. But there is still goodness in the world. I hope that you find it — and that it finds you. I hope that you and I may even be a source or instrument of some of the goodness in the world.



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