By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
She exited a fast food restaurant loaded with rations. One hand held a large bag of food; the other clutched a drink carrier bowing precariously under the weight of several 32oz beverages. As she shuffled across the parking lot, disaster seemed likely.
But she made it to her car – mostly.
Halfway through the journey, a straw was blown to the ground. She wisely abandoned the accessory, focusing instead on safely delivering the primary cargo to her car. Best case, it could be retrieved. Worst case, she’d return to the restaurant for a replacement.
Neither was necessary. As she got to her car and turned to check on the straw, a man brought it to her. He saw the errant straw, stopped his vehicle, fetched it from the parking lot and walked it over to the grateful woman.
It was a small thing. A simple act of kindness. In context, it was a powerful moment.
There has been much of late, in the world of sports and otherwise, to challenge even the most stubborn optimist’s faith in humanity and belief that the world’s good outweighs its bad.
Catholics, in the wake of the unconscionable and disgusting sexual abuse scandals, are left wondering how this church could preach its moral code – and burden the non-compliant with heavy consciences - while so many of its clergy preyed on children and its leaders protected the predators. Was Catholicism a ruse? Did all those financial contributions at mass do good or support the legal defense fund of pedophiles and a corrupt institution?
The presidency, often a source of wisdom and calming perspective, has of late created consistent national inflammation. President Trump’s expressed opinions on immigrants, minorities, Muslims, women and a free press, in addition to a long list of personal indiscretions and curious international interactions, have deeply disturbed critics. But it is hard to imagine that his free-thinking political supporters, in their heart of hearts, aren’t troubled by the rhetoric and influence on the country, one founded on the ideas of freedom and equality and heavily influenced by Christian ideals.
Sports and politics have recently intersected on the issues of sexual assault and domestic violence. Steelers fans cheer Ben Roethlisberger. Yankees fans cheer Aroldis Chapman. Some Americans are cheering the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. Ohio State University has moved on with Urban Meyer as the face of the institution. Whatever your opinion on each issue, the collective message is unacceptable. Women deserve better.
The Milwaukee Brewers’ won the first game of the ALCS last week. During the post-game interviews with Ryan Braun and Josh Hader, the elephants in the room were unmistakable. Braun parlayed PED use into a massive contract from the Brewers. He vehemently denied the allegations in 2012; a year later he issued a disingenuous “okay, you got me” apology. Hader, an ace reliever, once sent racist and homophobic tweets that were discovered earlier this year. He’s sorry too, of course (at least for getting caught). But the cheating, lying and hate fades to the background in the glow of sweet victory! Go Brewers!
So what about all of that? A powerful theme throughout Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” is the coexistence of good and evil (and the eternal struggle it begets). Both are apparent, too, in our games, our government, our institutions – in all facets of life. It’s a sobering thought. But all isn’t hopeless – it can’t be. Our games – sports - make tremendous contributions to society and our government, despite its flaws, remains one of humanities best ideas. As for religion, individual faith in something greater than “this” is at the core of just about all of them; that’s powerful when “this” is so corrupt.
We are, as a nation, a people…a species…a work in progress. To grow into something greater, we share a responsibility to keep this whole thing tilted in the right direction, at least in the aggregate if not in every instance. This demands that every person condemn evil and spread good wherever possible, even if it’s doing something as simple as stopping to retrieve a stranger’s lost straw.
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