One of the things I immediately implemented upon reading Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way was getting info from the Good News Network. As he pointed out, “Yes, it’s important to be informed about the world, but it’s ALSO important to keep in mind that it’s not all horrifying.”
A good chunk of the stories on the Good News Network center around “good Samaritans.” While it’s good to see the effect one individual’s actions can have, it also makes it overwhelming to think of the individual actions needed to face up to the overwhelming bad news in our headlines: climate change, political corruption, militarization of the police, war, economic collapse, etc.
That’s why I was so touched this week to be reminded of the power of groups. The reminder started with an individual, and the story is bookended by tragedies, one large and global, the other small and personal. And yet, it’s still a story of good news.
A few years ago, I read The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander Newfoundland. Basically, when the U.S. airspace was closed on 9/11, more than 30 jets, carrying more than 6,000 passengers, were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland–a town with a population of about 10,000. The book examines the few days around 9/11, following residents and stranded travelers and the intersecting stories that this crisis created in this small corner of the world.
It really is a fabulous read. It inspires trite phrases like “the power of the human spirit,” which can never encompass what they’re trying to convey. At its basic level, it’s a heart-warming read, and an interesting frame through which to look at this part of our recent history. Here was a group, banding together in a time of great national and global tragedy and making something good out of it.
But that’s not the end of this story. That’s the start, with the large global tragedy. Last month, the pilot of the second to last plane to land in Gander passed away. It’s a footnote to the grander story, and one I probably wouldn’t have ever heard about if he hadn’t been from my hometown (and if I hadn’t made my mom read the book). But what makes this small moment of loss for a family something bigger is tucked away in his obituary:
In lieu of flowers, please send donations written to the Canadian Red Cross, for the benefit of Gander Newfoundland, Canada.
Once again, it’s a simple individual action…this one taken in the spirit of and in return for a larger group action. But it was enough to bring tears to my eyes.
When my mom told me the news, I went back to look at the book and the epilogue is full of the stories of how the people both the Gander natives and their temporary guests responded after everybody went home…the pages are full of acts like this. And in their simplicity, they remind me, once again, that there is good to be found. Even in tragedy.