Several years ago, my husband was at a dinner with a CNN executive. The inevitable and predictable question arose: “Why do news outlets run so much bad news? Why can’t they tell more positive and heartwarming stories?”
After all, most of us don’t need convincing that ours is a fallen world. The answer was pretty simple, honest, and straightforward. Good news doesn’t sell. People tune in more for bad news than for good news.
Still, I’d argue that we actually need to hear the good stories. Otherwise, the brokeness of life gets to be too much. A professor of mine told the story of a friend who was giving a mission in Trinidad – partway through his stern hellfire and damnation preaching, a woman stood up and said, “Father, we all knows we’s sinners. Tell us something we don’t know.”
So here are four stories just from the past week or so, reminding us that things are not so bad, that life is beautiful.
1. The three angels of Woolwich. Last Wednesday, two men in the UK brutally attacked and slaughtered a soldier dressed in his civvies just outside his base. A big part of me really wrestled with the brutality of the attack, the fact that people stood by watching and recording it on their phones! But there were three heroes. Three women. Three Marys.
Gemini Donnelly-Martin her mother Amanda Donnelly confronted the killers and tried to attend to the victim Drummer Lee Rigby. They blocked him from further attack and Amanda prayed for him when she saw that there was nothing else she could do. In the midst of pure evil, goodness triumphed.
Around the same time [this is all one scene], Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, also a passerby like the other two women, stopped to confront one of the killers who was holding a bloody knife. She did so without thought for herself. She did it because she feared that a child in particular might be the next victim. Her child? No, any child, one that she probably wouldn’t even know.
Heroes. All of these women. But they say they’re not. They confronted violence with truth and prayer. Not one of them had a weapon. Yet they were stronger than the evil surrounding them. Ingrid credits her Catholic faith. And it’s interesting that the very fact that they were women seemed to give them some sort of credibility or respect with these vicious killers. I wonder if men could have been as peacefully effective…? Just wondering…
2. Baby 59. Just five days ago, a woman trying to hide her pregnancy, delivered a baby into a toilet in China. The baby boy ended up stuck in the plumbing. People heard his cries and rescuers went to great lengths to save him, which they did. This is a country where forced abortion and sterilization are the norm in order to meet the standards of a wretched one-child per family policy. In a country where the culture of death seems quite dominant, people took time to hear a child crying and to rescue him. Let’s face it, there are other, more brutal ways of unblocking plumbing…they would have destroyed the Baby 59 (apparently named after the number of his incubator). His rescue has prompted a discussion of China’s extreme population control, even in Time Magazine. It wasn’t so long ago that only “crazy pro-lifers” acknowledged these human rights violations. Now there’s a mainstream discussion, in part because of Baby 59’s sad but triumphant entry into this world.
3. The Korean Baby Box. Faced with the reality of unwanted babies regularly abandoned on the streets and left to die, Pastor Lee Jong-rak built the first baby box in Korea. It’s a drop box of sorts for women who might otherwise abandon their babies, especially handicapped babies. Pastor Jong-rak thought it might not even be effective, but it was worth a try. On the contrary, the box has been very busy, “delivering” even five babies in one week. Clearly, the good pastor was onto something. Those babies that could’ve been tossed out have become a witness of something far greater than evil. The baby box was covered in a 2009 LA Times story [I remember reading it back then.], which was read by Brian Ivie. He decided to go to Korea to do a documentary on the dropbox. In the midst of making his film, he became a Christian:
I became a Christian while making this movie. When I started to make it and I saw all these kids come through the drop box – it was like a flash from heaven, just like these kids with disabilities had crooked bodies, I have a crooked soul. And God loves me still. When it comes to this sanctity of life issue, we must realize that that faith in God is the only refuge for people who are deemed unnecessary. This world is so much about self-reliance, self-worth, and self-esteem. It’s a total illusion that we can be self-sufficient. Christ is the only thing that enables us.
His film, The Drop Box, has won awards and may even be picked up for widespread distribution. Babies that might be considered nothing more than trash end up teaching people who don’t even know them some of the most basic truths. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “A person is a person, no matter how small.”
4. Dallas the cat. One of my aunts sent me this story about a woman, Jackie Sharp, who found her cat thirteen years after he disappeared. I can hear some of you now. A cat? Seriously, a cat makes headline news? What about all the children who are abused? What about all the awful things that happen to innocent people every day? Don’t you know that some animals are treated better than humans?!
So here’s my defense. Yes, it’s a cat; but only civilized societies domesticate and value animals as pets. As overwhelming as the bad news can be, I think it’s quite lovely that someone should care for another creature as this woman did. And her cat gave her support and comfort that she needed during difficult times.
Let’s be honest. Discouragement keeps us from hoping and, frequently, from doing. If things are that bad, why even try? Christians recognize discouragement as a tool of the devil. But you don’t have to be a Christian to know that life is better when you have hope and when you at least try. Try, try again. As John Paul II noted, the saint is not the perfect person. It’s the person who gets up every time after falling.
Or put another way, the poet W.B. Yeats wrote:
…Come away – With the fairies, hand in hand, For the world is more full of weeping Than you can understand.
To which, G.K. Chesterton replied, concluding:
The world is hot and cruel, We are weary of heart and hand, But the world is more full of glory Than you can understand.