… At the same time
For years, as each year is coming to a close, Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, has written a commentary reminding readers that no matter how awful, chaotic, or disastrous the year may have been, it was still the best year that history has ever known. Kristof doesn’t deny the terrible circumstances that resulted during the year; he acknowledges them freely. Yet, he shares proof of the advances the world has made in health care, alleviating poverty, children’s well-being, education, mortality rates, equal and civil rights, cooperation and peaceable efforts between nations, and many other measures of human progress. Those advances, he asserts, have moved the world toward better lives for more people than ever before, contrary to the 24/7 sensationalist news that might point to the contrary.
This year, though, Kristof wrote that he had a more difficult time affirming that the world is in the best place it’s ever been before.
With the war in Ukraine, and other wars and conflicts around the world, global inflation, energy shortages, political radicalism and instability, Covid’s lingering and mutating grip on our health, relationships, and economy, climate change and its effects, poverty, and oppression of many kinds, making the case for a better world is tough.
But, despite all that, in the end, Nicholas Kristof still is able to assert in his yearly assessment: Cheer Up! The World Is Better Off Than You Think.
Quoted in that opinion piece is Max Rosen, of Our World in Data, who writes:
The world is awful.
The world is much better.
The world can be much better.
All three statements are true at the same time.
That statement really grabbed our attention.
It’s true. There is so much that is awful. There is so much that is better. There is so much that can be even better. All of this is true at the same time.
In our work with Someone To Tell It To, we know it to be true. When people come to us to have us listen, with their fears, their challenges, their brokenheartedness, life seems horribly wrong to them. Sometimes it’s all they can see, all they can believe. It’s our job to help them to see, find, and experience something better. But first, we have to validate and acknowledge the fears they have, the challenges they experience, the broken hearts they can’t seem to put back together again. We can’t ignore or deny what is bad, what is wrong. We have to face it all with them. And then, we try to help them find places in their lives and in the world around them that are not all bad, that are better than what they say they only see, that are actually pockets of joy, of hope, of peace. Because when they (and all of us, really) can begin to see light in the midst of the darkness, we can begin to know that life can be even better that we imagined before.
Life has always been and will always be a mixture of struggle and triumph, good times and bad, ease and hard work, tranquility and turmoil, love and hate. In the midst of life, we are in death, in the midst of birth, loss, in the midst of laughter, tears. Life is not easy. Life is not simple. Life is not a straight path that we travel.
But we believe that life – in all its complexities and contradictions – is better than it was and is meant to be better than it is.
As we begin this new year, this is our focus, to help life be better than ever before.
And it starts with helping the world to listen – by modeling how it is done, by teaching how to do it, and by advocating for all those who are striving to do it better.
To help make the world continue to be better – in the midst of its pain, disconnection, and problems – than it has ever been before.
We thank Nicholas Kristof and Max Rosen today for reminding us of that. For it would be tempting to believe that the world is far worse than it is, that it has never been this bad before. But we would be wrong when we think that way. It is better than ever before, if only we stop to see it and recognize the ways that – at the same time – there is evil and destruction, disappointment and terror, there is a quieter, stronger, force at work advancing the world and those of us in it to higher and better places than we’ve ever been before.
Photo by Fauzan Ardhi