Jan 04 2010

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Guerilla Goodness

Posted at 5:30 pm under Blog Post

There are plenty of people trying to make the world a better place – philanthropists, activists, idealists, and the occasional self-proclaimed philosopher like me.  Sometimes we actually accomplish good things.  Sometimes our intentions are good but the consequences of our ideas or actions only make things worse.  Usually we attract a great deal of attention to ourselves while we are busy saving the world.  And when the accolades are doled out, most of us accept any praise bestowed upon us as if we really do deserve it.  After all, we’ve been working so tirelessly for so long.  Heaven forbid that our efforts should go unnoticed.

Polly Beebe-Bove passed away Christmas Eve.  You probably don’t know who she was.  I don’t think she ever made the news.  But she definitely left her mark in this world.  She left her mark on my wife, Judy, directing her towards a church-sponsored silent retreat to resolve matters both spiritual and temporal.  She left her mark on me, encouraging me to keep at the difficult task of recounting a life-altering experience in Alaska.  She left her mark on many others, I’m sure.  She made the world a better place in small, quiet, self-effacing ways.  Polly made the world a better place in ways too incidental for anyone to notice, when no one was looking.  Guerilla goodness, I call it, and only now in her absence do we feel the full impact of her labors.

Polly was no saint.  She wasn’t an easy person to live with.  Talk with her children and you soon learn that.  And she had her demons.  Don’t we all.  But to Judy and me she was always encouraging, supportive, kind, and non-judgmental.  Now we are left wondering if we can work in a similar vein.  Judy is more optimistic about this than I am.  To save the world is easy; to selflessly aid others in their moment of need is not, especially if no one is looking.  Try it sometime.  Guerilla goodness.  It takes a great deal more effort than one might think.

There are times when all nature appears cruel and self-interested, and human beings are no exception.  History is filthy with it.  To a non-Christian like me, the teachings of that Nazarene two thousand years ago seem sadly unrealistic.  Then someone like Polly comes along and I begin to wonder what we humans are truly capable of doing.  Even from the grave, Polly’s unsinkable optimism snipes at my longstanding cynicism.  Just knowing someone like her makes me think that maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for humanity.  We haven’t completely defeated ourselves yet.

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