By Andrew Dargie
From Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme to 9/11, from Tiger Woods’ infidelity to continued revelations of sexual abuse cases in the Catholic Church, the last decade has reeked of sadness and hurt brought about by the selfish and careless nature of so many people across the world. It is challenging to find hope for the future as leaders such as Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad race for nuclear capabilities with no intentions of maintaining world peace, or as professional sports stars such as ex-Cowboy, Adam Jones, Nebraska Heisman finalist Ndamukong Suh, Florida defensive end Carlos Dunlap, tennis star Serena Williams, Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger all get away with behavior that could warrant jail time for any regular citizen. It is saddening to see the world’s animal species disappearing as people continue to pollute the planet and destroy and develop natural habitats with little thought of the future. In Copenhagen, the most powerful leaders in the world could not agree on how to work together for the benefit of all, despite the dire warnings from climate scientists. It is criminal that a San Francisco man would have to pay $150,000 for a triple bypass surgery and that even now, in 2010, significant racism still oozes throughout American society, one of the most developed and educated countries in the world.
In a world that seems to be spiraling out of control, it is important to stop and look past the stories of crime and suffering that head the newspapers and flood our TVs. There are people doing amazing things for this world, and they are the rays of light and hope for the decade ahead. These are just a few.
Charles Woodson: Charles Woodson, the cornerback of the Green Bay Packers, recently donated $2million to the new University of Michigan Mott Children’s Hospital and Women’s Hospital. Woodson said he “hopes to attract the world’s best researchers who want to help children with cancer, heart disease, kidney disorders and autism” (espn.com). If there was a Heisman trophy for making a positive difference in the world, Charles Woodson would have a second Heisman with his name on it.
Matt Damon: In a business overrun by glamour, excess, self-promotion, and self-aggrandizement Matt Damon is a wonderful contrast to the likes of Perez Hilton, Lindsey Lohan, Paris Hilton, Mel Gibson, Keifer Sutherland, and a list too long for this article. Spending much of his free time on philanthropy, Damon supports ONE (a nonpartisan organization that works in Africa to fight against poverty and preventable diseases like AIDS), ONEXONE (a campaign for improving the quality of children’s’ lives one child at a time by addressing issues of hunger, water, education, healthcare and play), Tonic Mailstopper (a company with a green initiative of reducing junk mail), Not On Our Watch (an organization which advocates worldwide for vulnerable, powerless, and marginalized people in society), and he cofounded the H20 Africa Foundation (an initiative that highlights the water crisis in Africa and works towards finding sustainable solutions to the problem). His global awareness and compassion have touched many, and his efforts warrant great respect.
Gertrude Clarke: The two people mentioned above have given much, but they have much to give. Here is another quite different example; someone who gives so much but yet by North American standards has little to give. Her name is Gertrude Clark, and she is my next door neighbor’s mother. She is 73 years old and lives in a house with 4 drug addicts, so that she can mentor them, teach them life skills, and take care of them as they attempt to recover from their addictions. For over 30 years, Gertrude has given unconditionally to those in need and has touched thousands of lives. In 1978 she started the Mustard Seed Christmas dinner that still runs today in my home city of Calgary, Alberta. She ran multiple soup kitchens for 12 years in the town of Red Deer, has volunteered for street ministries, and won the Queens Jubilee Award that recognizes citizens who achieve outstanding and exemplary service to their community or to Canada as a whole. Gertrude has given her time willingly and her compassion joyfully for no monetary reward. She lives simply, owns very little, and yet considers herself very blessed. Although she has not made the headlines she has, and continues to, make a difference.
Bad news sells, and it travels fast. However, when we consume a daily diet of news whose headlines are mostly of wars, murder, and conflict, it is easy to get jaded and to forget to look for the other side. It is important to search for the good because it is a source of inspiration and purpose. My best friend taught me that. It is powerful to know that there are people working towards the betterment of individuals, communities, society, and the world. Why? Because they genuinely care. For those people I am very thankful. It makes me believe that the future can be bright and that there is hope for peace and happiness in the world. Happy New Year!