If you’re hankering to feel negative about life, there is plenty of ammunition out there to fuel your fire.
A diving boat off the coast of California caught fire, presumably taking 34 lives. Dorian smashed the Bahamas on its way to Florida. A traffic stop turned into a killing rampage in west Texas. Half our country hates the other half of our country, and we can’t even reach a decision in this nation if the climate is changing or not.
These are all very real things, and it’s important that they are reported on by the media and digested by the masses, because it’s important that we all understand the world around us. That makes us better-informed voters, more likely to volunteer to help people in need when we can and allows us to, hopefully, make better choices in the future if we learn from mistakes or situations of the past.
But I have a secret for you: There’s also plenty of good out there if you are willing to look. Just this week our community saw optimistic and excited children start their new school years, while equally-excited parents celebrated the release of their homes back into their own hands.
Even in awful situations, which we already mentioned are not in short supply, there can often be some good. I’m reminded of the famous advice given by Mr. Rogers when he was asked how to deal with children when tragedy strikes.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
It really is true. And while it doesn’t help the people affected directly by these horrible events, and shouldn’t take away from the empathy we should always afford people who were most effected, we can always find that sense of hope in the fact that other people are jumping in to help. Good people. Selfless people.
Most of us will never forget seeing first-responders run to and inside the buildings struck by cowardly terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. I will personally never forget seeing Lenny Skutnik jump into an icy Potomac River in 1982 to save a woman who was too weak to grab onto a safety line following the crash of Air Florida Flight 90. Every single day, here in our own little community, we see volunteer firefighters, paramedics, EMTs and police officers jump into duty whenever a person needs help.
Just doing their jobs? I suppose one could say that. But what caused these people to take these jobs in the first place, knowing they could very well be putting their own lives at risk in support of others?
Jeremy Ganger also cares. He was a bouncer at Ned Peppers in Dayton, Ohio, when a shooter indiscriminately opened fire on people in a crowded downtown area on Aug. 4. Ned Peppers was in that area, and the shooter was reportedly making his way to the bar when police confronted him and took him out.
And while people understandably scurried about and tried to hide from the shooter, Ganger was caught on video grabbing passersby and helping them through the doors of Ned Peppers, sometimes by physically throwing them to a place of safety.
“My job’s the door,” Ganger told WCPO-9 Cincinnati. “I protect the customers and my guys that work there as well, all the staff members, so when I saw the chance to step up and help do my job, my part, that’s all it was. My job.”
I’d argue that Ganger’s job responsibilities included checking for college kids using fake IDs, getting unruly drunks out of the bar and basically helping people be safe. I’m not sure that facing down a mass shooter, who ultimately took nine lives and wounded more than 20 people, falls into his job description.
And, oh yeah, Ganger was one of those injured. He caught a piece of a shell casing that ricocheted off his leg.
“I would have died before that guy came in,” said Ganger. “Our patrons are more important than one active shooter, so I was going to try to stand my ground the best I could.”
Ganger said he was fewer than 3 feet from the shooter when police took him down.
“He looked me straight in the eye,” he said. “That’s why — I don’t know if you saw the footage, you see him pause for a second — it’s because he’s looking at me. Like, ‘Why are you holding the door?’ So he knew I was there waiting. That’s what I wanted him to know. I hope I’m the last thing he remembered.”
In a world that’s filled with scary things and people intent on doing good people harm, it’s comforting to know that there are also people who are intent on protecting good people. It doesn’t take the pain away, but maybe it gives us an extra smile and a little bit more hope about the future.