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Four Years at the Mount

Junior year

Drinking from glasses half full

Shea Rowell
Class of 2019

(8/2017) My name is Shea Rowell, and I am the newest member of the Emmitsburg News-Journal’s Four Years at the Mount column. I am a junior at the Mount, and I am pursuing majors in English and Music. I am so happy to join the ENJ team as a way to deepen my "real-world" experiences in my field of study, and to participate more fully with the town of Emmitsburg, which has become a second home to me since my first day on campus. Thank you all very much for the opportunity—I’m so excited to be a part of the team!

The world today seems like a dark and dangerous place. With money to make, bills to pay, and deadlines to meet, the harsh realities of living surround us each day. In our lives, we may experience loss or sadness, brokenness or defeat. Looking at the world outside of our own lives can be equally dismal. Five minutes spent watching the news is enough to persuade most people to change the channel, for it reminds us each day of the horrors of our world: crimes against innocent people, disease outbreaks, wars abroad, and distrust of authority flood the news media. Scrolling down a social media news feed releases a torrent of disagreement and not-so-friendly debates. There seems to be more greed than love, more hatred than happiness. Negative messages are everywhere, and their influence is often enough to create a climate of hopelessness and despair. We ask ourselves, will the horrors ever stop? Will humans ever find peace?

These questions are difficult to answer, and impossible to do so with certainty. However, a message that the world needs to hear more than any other is that there is goodness in the world. In fact, there is good in everything if we are determined enough to find it. Each person who passes us on the street, each situation that faces us in our day contains some elements that are good. Finding goodness, broadly described as optimism, may be misconstrued as blindness to reality. However, optimism is far from ignorance. Instead it is a conscious choice. An optimist sees a situation as it is, and chooses to focus upon the positive things instead of the negative ones. They see the negativity, acknowledge it, and dedicate their energy instead to goodness.

This is all well and good, but seeing the goodness in a situation doesn’t really change anything does it? Changing your attitude about a situation doesn’t affect the situation itself. Instead, the positive change is in you. However, this can make a world of difference. Those who focus on negativity reflect it and pass it on to others. Those who see anger and focus on anger share it with others, when they could be sharing peace. Those who see hopelessness and choose to despair spread their despair to others, when they could be spreading hope. Those who see and focus on failure discourage themselves and others, when they could become a source of positive motivation and improvement. Peace, hope, and encouragement, among other positive motives, drive people on to do great things and to lead better lives. It is goodness which inspires change-makers and world-improvers. Goodness is powerful, but how do you find it?

Finding goodness in all situations requires a disciplined and open mind. There will always be challenges and losses that face us in our lives. However, the good lies within the way we transform them. Adversity and even suffering can be turned around into resilience and growth of character. Failure can be transformed into a fresh start. Loss can become renewal. Other people who challenge us give us the opportunity to defend what we value and even sometimes to reform our own perspectives. In this way, each difficulty we encounter is an opportunity to find the good and seize it. We are defined by the way we manage the challenges that come our way. Defeat is only for those who welcome it.

If finding the good in difficult situations is challenging, finding the good in people can be even more so. People make mistakes; we’re only human. And our humanity is what makes us good. It is easy to get caught up in ourselves and forget that others around us have passions, lives, obligations, and values that define and drive them as much as ours do us. Most people, within the context of their own lives and situations, are simply trying to make life better for themselves and their loved ones. The person on the other end of the political spectrum, while passionately opposing your values, is equally determined to use their vote to make the world a better place. The driver who cuts you off in traffic is just another person trying to get to their destination safely and on time. Each person, regardless of their mistakes and differences, is inherently good and deserving of respect. People aim for the standard they are held to by others. Treating people as if there is good in them can change the way you see them and even the way they see themselves. You never know how much a friendly smile, a forgiving word, or a caring conversation will mean.

However, sometimes no matter how hard we try, situations contain no goodness in themselves. Some tragedies are so great that optimism is out of place or even irreverent. In these situations, we have a responsibility to fulfill. Where there is no goodness to be found, we must create it. In the face of hatred we must show love and kindness. Where there is tragedy we must show solidarity and hope. Goodness can be created in actions big and small. Generous giving, words of encouragement, even a simple friendly smile can change someone’s day, or even someone’s life, for the better. The best part is, people do this all the time. In every negative situation, there are good people working to improve it. Where there is poverty, there are people showing charity. Where there is illness there are those who bring healing. Where there is division there are those who strive for unity. Even today, in a world which seems so broken and so divided, there is a reason to be happy, and a motive to continue trying to make things better. The world is so full of goodness that we don’t have to look far to find it, and it is so in need of goodness that it is our duty as humans to create it ourselves.

Read other articles by Shea Rowell