Why Is There So Much Good in the World?

by Melannie Svoboda SND on August 3, 2020

Does the title of this blog surprise you? Did you think the word good was a mistake? Did you think, “Surely, she meant evil“?

Good parents…

No, the title is not a mistake. It refers to something I read years ago by M. Scott Peck, well-known writer and psychologist, author of that wonderful book, The Road Less Travelled. He said that throughout his life-long career as a practicing psychologist, many of his clients asked him, “Why is there so much evil in the world?” But NOT ONE PERSON ever asked him, “Why is there so much GOOD in the world?”

His experience raises the question: Why are we more apt to dwell on what’s wrong in the world and in our personal life, rather than on what’s right in the world and in our personal life? Why do the news media focus on vice rather than virtue, on corruption rather than honesty, on crime rather than good works? One reason they do, of course, is to call our attention to what needs “fixing” in our society. In addition: we tend to find evil intriguing. For example, in John Milton’s epic, Paradise Lost, many critics and readers find Satan a more fascinating character than the angels and even God! Evil seems to attract and captivate.

Good health care workers…

But shouldn’t goodness do the same thing? Instead of wondering why so many people are crabby, shouldn’t we be amazed that so many people are pleasant day after day? Instead of noticing how rude some individuals can be, shouldn’t we be in awe of the kindness we encounter everyday—people speaking respectfully to others, opening doors for one another, helping children or the elderly, giving generously of their time and money, or simply smiling? (One negative consequence of wearing masks: not seeing smiles!)

We must not deny or ignore what’s wrong in the world. At the same time, we cannot afford to allow what’s wrong to overwhelm us. So we must, on a regular basis, notice and appreciate the goodness and beauty we encounter every day. Perhaps at prayer we can start a list: “What’s right with my life right now” or “What’s good in our world” or “Things I am grateful for today.” Then maybe we can share with others the goodness we experience in our families, workplaces, neighborhoods, parishes, and larger communities.

Good parks…

As you know, I love history. Why? Because history gives us a perspective on the present. Here are a few pieces of good news based on a historic perspective:

In 1970, barely half the people in the world were literate. Today 86% of the world’s population is literate (males 90%, females 82.7%)… For centuries slavery was a common global practice. Even in the first decades of the United States, slavery was supported and protected by law. Today, slavery is outlawed in most of the countries in the world… Today in many countries, children are more protected by laws than ever before in history… From 1980 to today, global access to water increased from 58% to 91%… In 1962 there were 9,214 protected nature reserves in the world. Today there are over 200,000.

Good first responders…

Citing examples of good news must not lead to complacency. Though slavery was outlawed in 1863 in the U.S., some states enacted laws to discriminate against “former slaves.” The recent global demonstrations against racism attest to the fact that we are still dealing with residual injustices of slavery and its aftermath. Similarly, though we’ve increased the number of protected nature reserves worldwide, we need to improve their quality and biodiversity.

Good signs…

As Christians, our faith is based on the everlasting Good News of God’s unfailing love for us. During this time of so much bad news, we must not forget in whom our faith resides. So, this week take time to notice, pray over, contribute to, and talk about some of the good things in your life and our world.

For reflection:

What are some of the things that are good and right in your personal life and in the larger world?

Do you ever feel the need to take a break from the bad news you see and hear everyday? If so, how do you take your break?

Jesus encountered a lot of bad news during his life. What things did he do to not let bad news overwhelm him?

Our song today is an old hymn (written in 1864) called “For the Beauty of the Earth” sung here by the Mike Curb Congregation. Enjoy the words, the voices, and the pictures!

I welcome you to share some of your thoughts with us today!

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Lucille Blais August 3, 2020 at 5:05 am

I thoroughly enjoyed this morning’s presentation. Looking for the positive,especially in our world, takes determination. I think the current pandemic has brought it in the forefront. Rarely have we seen so many people caring for one another through kindness, willingness to reach out to others and emphasizing such behavior obverved.
I live in a Health Care facility. Recently, our Activities Director gave us a paper with balloons. The caption above read: HAPPY WORDS. She asked us to write a “Happy Word ” on each of the 5 balloons and then color. I did what she asked and was compelled to continue filling the paper until there were no spaces left. My colors taken from the raibow, one of my Happy Words.

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Ed Johnson August 3, 2020 at 6:35 am

Good Morning, Sister, and All,
Certainly a well-timed, and well put, post this week. Since Lent, 2019, I have refused to watch any cable tv news. Too much polarization, blame, and negativity. I watch only the local news broadcast at 6:00pm, and one network at 6:30 pm. I have my favorite news sources, which I browse and read; keeps me well informed. No social media! Jesus set the example for us: prayer, solitude, treasuring children, love of nature, seeing people’s hearts, proactive deeds, “can do” attitude, scripture…… Peace, Blessings, Safety, and Positivity to everyone this week….

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John Hopkins August 3, 2020 at 6:50 am

I need to follow your lead, Ed!

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Sue Burkart August 3, 2020 at 6:41 am

Sister Melannie, I’ve so enjoyed your lovely words and music postings over the last year. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Perhaps the most profound practice I’ve done over the last twenty years has been a gratitude practice. For the first six months at the end of each day I wrote down what I was grateful for that day. At first I only realized I had things to be grateful for if I really thought about it. Gradually I started to become aware of each thing as it happened—someone’s smile, a beautiful flower or sky, a good conversation. For many years, though I continue (mostly) to notice things to be grateful for in the moment, I also go over them all in my evening prayers. It makes the world a beautiful place to keep realizing the blessings that I receive even in the darkest days or times, like the day my husband died eight years ago or now during this pandemic. It also opens my heart to more freely offer blessings to others.

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Kathleen Magiera August 3, 2020 at 6:47 am

Good Morning Everyone!

As a kind of “fast”, I try to refrain from looking at social media from time to time to keep my wits about me. It seems to help.

During this pandemic, I find people are more likely to greet you more. I especially see this when I walk my dog or go to Mass. It is a blessing.

Kathleen

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John Hopkins August 3, 2020 at 6:47 am

Good morning, Sr. Melannie….
Good morning, all….

Such an apt topic, Sr. Melannie! You’re right about the news. It loves to lead with catastrophe, often accompanied with dramatic music and quick camera shots. I get it, that station wants you to stay, and you know what? it works! At least for me. But I’ve also noticed how just about every news outlet — even PBS — tries to end with something positive.

Yesterday, my wife and son did something very positive indeed. We paid a visit to Mount Auburn cemetery in Cambridge, perhaps one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. Would you agree, Tom? Yes, it’s a place of death, but also a place of life teeming with something like 4,000 different species of trees, wild flowers everywhere, majestic hawks, and the cutest chip monks you’ve ever seen! We walked it for two hours and could have easily walked for another two. Just gorgeous! For a couple of hours we thought only of the astonishing variety of this world that God deemed “very good.”

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Thomas DeFreitas August 3, 2020 at 9:36 pm

John, hello! I haven’t explored Mount Auburn as much as I’ve explored Forest Hills Cemetery (where E E Cummings is buried), but yes, the few times I’ve been there, it has impressed me as a beautiful place. Almost a kind of nature preserve, as you note!

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Marla August 3, 2020 at 6:49 am

THANK YOU, MELANNIE!

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Mary M Nausadis August 3, 2020 at 8:27 am

Good morning Sr. Melannie and all,
I am fortunate to have been born with a “cup half full” attitude, so I find much to be grateful for. I find myself thanking God many times in a day, for a bird’s chirp or a lovely tunnel of trees driving down a street or the smile of a child or anyone, for that matter. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but just feeling grateful for having this kind of outlook.

I do not watch the news, but get some via email and everyone I speak to is eager to fill me in on all the goings on. I rest more peacefully and am still able to pray for the civil unrest and ugliness that is so prevalent in our world. I don’t want the angst of our current situation to override my sense of God’s peace.

As a spiritual director I often will ask the directee what was the best thing that happened to them that day. On one occasion the gal had just finished telling me about her horrific day as a lower grade counsiler when I asked her that question….she hesitated a bit and then told me that the situation she had just told me about was really the best thing that happened to her that day…..amazing isn’t it, when we look at the same thing through different lenses…..thanks be to God for that!

Have a week of goodness,
Mary

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RC August 3, 2020 at 9:23 am

Sr. Melanie,
Your post was wonderful. It was just what I needed to kick start
the week. I have gone from teaching about marriage (as a deacon) to
living a very secluded existence with my wife which has led to a rediscovery
of the two of us and our daily deaths and risings. And believe it or not, I
rediscovered that many “old” movies I had and would reject because of
their violence such as VARSITY BLUES and ZOOKEEPERS WIFE.
In going through them again and paying attention, I tapped into a rich
well of experience and learning. Our last 4 1/2 months are full
of blessings. God bless

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Jean Canatsey August 5, 2020 at 8:58 am

Dear RC,
My husband of 64 years and I have also experienced this “secluded existence” over the past several months and are relishing it. We are blessed.

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Betsy August 3, 2020 at 9:43 am

Good morning to all,
I have always loved this hymn over the years. Thanks for bringing it up to our notice and enjoyment. There is beauty if we will only look and listen.
Thanks for sharing. Blessings, Betsy

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Marilyn August 3, 2020 at 10:57 am

Your blogs are always a breath of fresh air. This one is a good reminder. I try to be grateful often during the day but it is easy to get bogged down.
Thank you for all you do,
Peace,
Marilyn Friga

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Sister Jane August 3, 2020 at 1:51 pm

I do so look forward to SUNFLOWER SEEDS! Today’s song choice took me back to Buseesa, Uganda. Every evening I would venture out to the inner courtyard and sit on the steps descending into the garden area. Caesar our watchdog would come and rest his beautiful black head on my lap and we would admire God’s glorious painting of the nightly view of the Milky Way! I would eventually burst into my rendition of “For the Beauty of the Earth”…Melannie , did you ever take time to glory in Buseesa’s night sky?
Thanks again for your SUNFLOWER SEEDS!

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Melannie Svoboda SND August 3, 2020 at 2:05 pm

Dear Jane, Yes, I did take time to glory in Buseesa’s night sky when I visited there! I always say, the two places on earth where I saw the MOST stars at night were rural South Dakota and Buseesa, Uganda! The sight filled me with awe! Thanks so much for reminding me of that extraordinary experience! (Readers: Sister Jane is one of the founding sisters of our mission in Uganda. What a special person she is!) Melannie

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Regina Hlavac, DC August 3, 2020 at 11:01 am

Thank you for always being so positive! Yes, we truly need happy, joyful and wonderful things to think and talk about. When I taught fourth grade in Maryland, my students were so excited about a news show that we were going to try to produce that would only share good news. The delightful students talked about all the bad news that was always shared, so they wanted to do something about it. We started in our class a news talkshow, entitled “Sharing Only JOY”. It was totally awesome and I was so proud of them. Too bad we didn’t have the money to really produce it. However, the joy was that they learned the meaning of spreading good news and how to make people happy!!!
Sr. Regina Hlavac, DC
Baltimore, MD

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Jean August 3, 2020 at 11:11 am

One of my favorite Psalm quotes at the end of the video!!
Thank you Sister Melannie!!

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Nancy Jumper August 3, 2020 at 2:32 pm

So needed this today. So much negativity around. I have to remember to be grateful for all I have and pray for others to be as blessed. Thanks for your wise words. My Free to Be group is reading your book about spirituality. Love it. I think I’ve underline at least 1/2 of every page.
Nancy ❤️

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Julie August 3, 2020 at 2:54 pm

The following message was recently posted on NEXT DOOR. It has affected so many people . . . just had to share after reading your wonderful words of wisdom. Thank you, Sister Melanie! We so appreciate you!!! May our loving Lord continue to bless you as you bless us!
“I watched an elderly man at Smart n Final nervously and carefully gather his groceries. He was wary of people getting too close. He had his hand sanitizer out as soon as he was done and putting it on. He looked up at me as I neared to pay my bill, concerned I would get too close. I stayed a safe distance away and our eyes met. I nodded to him, trying to let him know I understood his concern. We looked at each other over our masks and I saw him thank me for keeping my distance and his relief in his eyes when he looked into mine. I like to think he saw understanding and care there.
This man isn’t just some “old person with underlying conditions” whose life is disposable. It was painfully obvious that if even he didn’t matter to anyone else, he mattered to himself. He cared deeply for his health and safety. But chances are, he is a husband, a grandfather, a great grandfather. Chances are, he is loved by people and matters to those in his orbit. And his life matters to him as much as mine matters to me. I was grateful I was who he looked up to see, another human wearing a mask and respectful of distance between us. When his eyes met mine, he saw care and good-will. His relief made me want to hug him. To tell him his life matters to me too. Of course, that would’ve been the worse thing I could do, but I wanted to.
I think of him every time I go into a store and put a mask on. Even if masks did nothing but give those that have genuine and real concerns a little peace, then it is worth it to me to put one on. It is one way I get to practice some love for my fellow humans and after all the love that has been shown to me by my God and by others, it is a small thing for me to do.”

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Thomas DeFreitas August 3, 2020 at 10:07 pm

What’s been good about today is that I accomplished several errands today without exhausting myself, or becoming underhydrated in the nearly 90-degree heat; and beyond that, a dear friend gave me about a pound (!!) of blueberries that she picked, herself, on a recent visit to Maine! Yay!

My preserve, my oasis, my haven these days, tends to be the beads. I pray the Rosary in the traditional Catholic way, but I think it’s a sturdy enough devotion to be able to sustain some flexibility — I’ll often meditate on “unofficial” mysteries (saving the woman from stoning), or sometimes, as Anglicans do, say a favourite Scripture verse on each bead.

A previous comment mentioned gratitude lists; I wholeheartedly agree: it’s a very helpful practice.

Two years ago tomorrow I lost a dear friend. Jen was 44 when she died of a cancer that had been discovered only six weeks earlier. I wept, sobbed, and wailed for weeks afterwards, about seven times a day. Poetry (the poetry of grief and elegy) sustained me more than faith; or perhaps it was my faith, in a less pietistic expression. I needed to read the words of others who knew what I was feeling. Jen was such a light, such a joy, such an embodiment of compassion. I knew her for only three years, and was very vexed off at God for stealing her, as it seemed, when our friendship was so young. I miss her sorely, and always will. But I’m grateful, immeasurably, that I knew her, that we were friends. She was an embodiment of compassion, a joy, a light — and one tough cookie!

Peace and light, everyone, and as always, thanks for listening.

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Margaret Greer August 4, 2020 at 8:16 am

Thank you for the beautiful post. So uplifting. We really need to be reminded that there is so much more good in the world, even in 2020! And I loved the hymn. Such a beautiful song of praise and thanksgiving. Let’s all be thankful.

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Mary August 7, 2020 at 7:35 am

We take so much for granted. I am so grateful and thankful for a hot shower.

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Jean Canatsey August 8, 2020 at 1:25 pm

What an interesting topic to consider. I remember reading once, “If the only prayer you say is “Thanks!” that would be enough.
My list of good things in the world starts when I open my eyes in the morning and thank God for another day and that I woke up with my husband of 64 years next to me. I thank Him/Her for our two little dogs and our old cat who love us unconditionally. When I slide into the pool for my morning swim, I see the goodness of nature in the coolness of the water, the blue of the sky, the green of the trees, the brilliance of the flowers and the beauty of the butterflies flitting around and laying their eggs on the milkweed and the passion vine. ALL is good!

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Marian Clare Valenteen August 16, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Thank you for your reflections!
Can you share a schedule of any retreats you are directing on line?
Very gratefully,
Marian Clare Valenteen RSM

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