“Is it lawful to do good?” Jesus asks in the book of Mark of the New Testament.
Jesus is rhetorically asking the pharisees whether or not he should heal someone on the Sabbath almost 2,000 years ago. I like to think of how that question applies to every day life in 2018.
Often times we hear why we shouldn’t help people. Don’t give money to homeless people, they’ll just buy drugs. Don’t allow refugees into our country, they might be a terrorist. Don’t include gay people, they’re unnatural. Don’t listen to people with mental illnesses, they’re crazy. Don’t associate with that person they’re from the wrong political party. Don’t help that classmate, they should have taken better notes.
Life is hard enough without unnecessarily criticizing each other for how we try to help others. It should be lawful to do good.
We have become so efficient in determining who and what is good and bad, that we have forgotten to actually do the good we think we are in charge of monitoring. To steal the motto of the fictional tech startup company Gryzzl from the TV show Parks and Recreation, “Wouldn’t it be tight, if everybody was chill to each other?”
In the past few weeks we have heard several high ranking politicians and public figures advocate for further division and animosity toward one another. Both Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton made hostile comments about those who oppose their views, saying “When they go low, we kick them” and “If we win back the house and the senate, then civility can start again,” respectively.
This week, explosives were sent to the Obamas, Clintons, CNN and others. We regularly hear about politicians being screamed at and heckled out of restaurants with their families.
We the Scroll editorial board, believe that this kind of mentality or behavior is wrong and that it is not only lawful to do good but that at this time in our history it is necessary.
Over the summer the Won’t You Be My Neighbor documentary about Mister Rogers was released. In a jaded and divided world it was overwhelming to see the capacity for goodness one person has and how powerful it is when the capacity is used to the fullest.
Former first lady, Michelle Obama’s slogan, “When they go low, we go high” captures what it means to do good. Truly applying that principle is the key to accessing the type of goodness Mister Rogers tapped into. Even when there are those who don’t deserve our help or kindness, even those who antagonize us and ridicule our beliefs and values, we still go high, and in a non-condescending way, treat them with kindness, respect and civility.
I had the privilege of meeting a handful of individuals who have tapped into this same capacity for goodness and they are individuals who have truly made the world a better place. It may seem overwhelming or impossible to believe that this kind of goodness could become mainstream and the new norm of our society, and perhaps it is, but we can make it the new norm for us.
My father is one of these people. He immigrated to San Francisco from an El Salvador that was on the brink of civil war when he was teenager. He learned what it was like to not have much and the value of kindness and goodness.
I will never forget a time when I was growing up and my father took me and my brothers to a Golden State Warriors basketball game not too long after Christmas, after the game we hung around longer than almost everyone trying to catch a glimpse of the players leaving the stadium and seeing if we could get a high five or an autograph. When we made our way back to the car in that empty parking lot we saw a man who was clearly homeless and had barely enough clothes on to keep out the brisk January winds in downtown Oakland. I don’t remember if he engaged with my dad or if my dad approached him, what I do vividly remember is my dad taking off his brand new, fashionable coat he had just received as a gift, and placing it on the shoulders of this man. As a young boy I was stunned as to why he would do something so stupid. I knew he had been wanting a new coat and yet here he was just giving it away.
It wasn’t until years later that I realized the reason this incident stayed with me for so long. I don’t remember the score of the game, who won, or who the Warriors even played, but that brief exchange in the parking lot stayed with me. The reason it stayed with me is because goodness sticks around. It’s hard to shake off a true act of kindness. It’s even harder to treat someone poorly if we witness them create goodness in the world before our very eyes.
So start small, be kind and do good.
As Mister Rogers so beautifully said, “There are three ways to ultimate success. The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind.”