Insights by Goldie: Ordinary people do extraordinary things

by Goldie Caughlan

This article was originally published in January 2004

Have you started to dread watching the news or reading a paper, because all the news is bad news? It can seem that way, even if we remember that bad news seems to sell more papers and get higher viewer ratings than good news.

While we may expect to be fed a diet high in junk news, we needn’t swallow it. As with other junk food, over-consumption of junk news will result in an unhealthy overload of our senses and a skewed view of life. We can consciously inject balance in our news diet.

Less newsworthy, but far more important, is the simple fact that most people still do get up every single morning, pull up their socks and face the day. Sometimes that constitutes a true act of high courage.

Everyday heroes
But everyday unsung heroes don’t make the news. In spite of the constant stresses of juggling finances, commutes, schedules and domestic or employment situations and health issues, most parents want to provide good lives for their children, whether or not they have the full knowledge of what that involves or the means to achieve it.

I hold onto what I think of as the Anne Frank philosophy, the firm conviction that we human beings are far more alike than we are different and that most of us on this small planet are still honest, good and decent people who are not out to cheat, steal and abuse others.

Most of us do try to act with the best of intentions and really want to do our best — and sometimes we face terrific odds. Most of us want to set good examples for children, be good neighbors and responsible citizens. We try to be healthy and joyful while wanting to improve our lives and those of our family, community and world at large. We do this in the face of very mixed, unsettling and confusing messages that enter our homes from television and other media. That is courageous.

There’s a very real story emerging
and that is the growth of positive
models for real change.

Models for change
Therefore, dear PCC family members, as we start a new year, I invite you to tell me stories about the simple everyday acts of inspiration and courage that are all around us, unnoticed and unacknowledged. Let’s share vignettes and stories that are especially inspiring and experiences that were life changing, however simple they may have seemed at the time. If they touched your heart and renewed your own conviction that each of us can make a positive difference this day, this month and this year — then speak up.

Recent news reports have documented the shocking state of childrens’ health, especially the growing levels of obesity in the very young and the high incidence of diabetes and other diseases previously associated with aging. Stories have documented the dismal choices many school lunch programs provide and the disheartening approach of many schools where programs are funded by selling children soda pop and junky snacks in school vending machines. It’s true and it’s serious, but there is another very real story that’s been emerging and that is the growing rejection of this state of affairs and the emergence of positive models for real change.

Sustaining each other
In February, I’ll introduce you to a grade school mom whose efforts made an extraordinary difference in the foods served in her school district here in Washington State. We’ll hear about her physical and health challenges and reflect on her positive approach to organizing as she marvels that her efforts have made such a difference. Her story will inspire and remind each of us of our own untapped creative power that can help change the world for better.

I look forward to reading your letters, emails or receiving your phone calls. Share your journey or your observation of the inspiring acts you’ve witnessed in another. What motivated you or the person whose story you want to tell?

Maybe you’d like to share some of the ways you’ve been helping break the patterns of poor eating. For some of you it takes intense determination and planning to shop for and prepare more whole foods. PCC may not be as close for you as a large chain supermarket, yet you don’t fall back on old habits. That’s showing courage and strength of character — and sharing why and how you’ve changed can give a boost to others’ efforts.

Perhaps you’ve successfully faced a serious health challenge for yourself or a child. Maybe you’ve helped start a community or school garden, or worked to restore a creek for salmon runs.

Do you drive an elderly or disabled neighbor to PCC, or shop or help cook for her regularly? Or do you want to thank someone who has provided help to you? Have you worked with PCC staff to package bulk foods for food banks? Or have you volunteered in a food bank or community kitchen? How did the experience affect you?

Have you helped welcome refugee families, tutored in a language or literacy program, been a Big Brother or Sister, recorded for the blind, or mentored at a local school or center? Or has your own life been changed and enriched by someone who helped you when you needed a hand up?

Also in this issue

News bites, January 2004

Metro orders hybrid buses, Childhood obesity, Beef war, and more