“And so shines a good deed in a weary world…”
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
“We live in a world where finding fault in others seems to be the favorite blood sport. It has long been the basis of political campaign strategy. It is the theme of much television programming across the world. It sells newspapers. Whenever we meet anyone, our first, almost unconscious reaction may be to look for imperfections.”
Henry B. Eyring
We, as a society, are brutally negative.
We find fault and find any number of ways to find proof that bad things happen, people do bad things and people seem to only rise to the occasion in bad times and bad moments. In fact, it almost seems like we go looking for the imperfections and the bad every time we have an opportunity.
But whether we recognize it or not, good deeds happen all the time, even in a weary world, if we were to only shine a little light upon them.
That said. Let me share some numbers to make my point.
What do they all have in common? They are one more than what actually happened.
One more death on 9/11.
One more suicide annually.
One more death in a fire in a year.
One more homicide annually.
One more alcohol related death in a year.
What I am suggesting, in a weary world, maybe we should think a moment about what did not happen — the additional “1” that never occurred and why.
The September 11 attacks killed 2,996 people and injured more than 6,000 others. Because of someone’s good deed that day, and maybe even many little deeds never recognized most likely, there were not 2,997.
Each year, about 47,173 people die by suicide, an average of 129 completed suicides every day. Every year, 864,950 people attempt suicide, which means 1 person attempts suicide every 38 seconds <Emory Hospital>. There is 1 suicide for every 20 attempted suicides. Males make up 79% of all suicides, while women are more prone to having suicidal thoughts. Because of one moment, one person, one deed, there was not 47,174.
In 2019 there were about 481,500 structure fires causing 2,980 civilian deaths. Because of a good deed, most likely on the part of some firefighter, there were not 2,981. (NFPA’s 2019 Survey of Fire Departments for US Fire Experience)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 16,425 homicides. Because of a good deed, most likely on the part of some police officer, there was not 11,209. (Statista)
88,000 deaths (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) are annually attributed to excessive alcohol use. Because of a good decision to talk instead of drink, one good deed, there was not an 88,001th alcohol related death.
In each case someone somewhere chose to do something which made a difference. Someone somewhere decided to accept the responsibility to do a deed.
Which brings me to responsibility or ‘personal responsibility” because that is what ‘so shines a good deed in a weary world’ is truly about.
I will note that no marketer/company uses the phrase in communications. No politician uses this phrase. It is typically the kiss of death because people just do not want to hear it.
The truth is that nowadays, more often than not, personal responsibility gets transferred to someone else with some other title which implies they have the responsibility <a firefighter, a police officer, a politician, a government employee, a social worker, a doctor, etc.>. Well. Here is the truth. Personal responsibility cannot be transferred — even to someone significantly more qualified than you.
But others are more capable then we are!
Aren’t others being paid to do these things?
We pay taxes. And it is painful to do so, but we ease that pain by assuming someone assumes the responsibilities we do not want. And we even pay people to do many of the deeds I am discussing.
But the deeds I have outlined today are the responsibility of all of us. Not just some fewer qualified more capable people.
The “1 that doesn’t happen” I pointed out is an ongoing “we” thing.
The “1 that doesn’t happen” represents that despite a weary world someone, somewhere, does a good deed.
We assume the personal responsibility not in terms of self-interest, but rather because most good deeds are just deeds that should be done. The deeds come in all shapes and sizes including deeds that maybe simply put a smile on someone’s face and sometimes even just a smile saves a life.
Deeds that maybe simply are a moment in which someone stops because common sense suggests they should turn something off or put something in its place … and in doing so saves a life.
Deeds are enablers. Enablers for … well … stopping bad in its place and says ‘no more for now and in this moment.’
These are deeds all of us can do.
These deeds are not just for those paid to do them or others we deem more capable to do them. We are enablers of good deeds. All of us. Shit. All of us are certainly capable of a good deed.
We just need to assume some personal responsibility for good deeds.
Is there a reward? Sure. It is that whole “shine in a weary world” thing.
And we do it not because it is our job nor do we do it out of any real conscious effort. We do it, well ,maybe because of something like this:
“He simply couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.”
<gene wilder’s nephew on why Wilder told no one about his illness>
One less than what could have been. One less death and one less loss.
That is the reward for a good deed in a weary world.