Typically, America teaches lessons, not learns them. We are a nation who leads, and we feel most comfortable in that role. We also tend to believe that as leaders, we should be exempt from hardship and suffering. We seem to forget the tremendous personal sacrifices that were made to establish us as a nation, the threats and attacks that came against our forefathers, and the reality that some form of suffering has been a part of every nation’s history since the beginning of time. Ten years ago we were reminded that we are not exempt. A violent and calculated terrorist attack struck a deep and bitter blow to a country that considered itself impervious to such things. In the American mind, such an attack was unthinkable and unprovoked. In the minds of others, however, America simply joined the ranks of the many countries who know firsthand the pain and suffering of terrorism. To some nations, the ugly Americans were just getting what they deserved.
On September 11th, 2001, we were reminded that we are not insulated, but vulnerable like the rest of the world. We were reminded that fame, fortune, and prosperity cannot fend off an attack of evil. We felt our vulnerability in that moment, and in that moment we were helpless to stop what was happening. The truth is, no matter who you are or where you live; hardship, suffering, and violence can come to you. Bad things happen.
There is strength and freedom in knowing the truth, even if it is hard to accept. America is vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Instead of deceiving ourselves and trying to build a structure of self-protection, a fortress of finances, a system of beliefs, or a social ideology that make us feel superior and invincible, should we not instead engulf ourselves and each other in something that truly does make a difference?
Before the attacks on September 11th were even over, people were pouring out goodness on each other. In fact the goodness of a few men saved another plane from crashing into the White House or the capital. It was horrific enough that the towers and the Pentagon were hit and that so many lives were lost. What if we had also had to see the White House in flames? But goodness halted the progress of evil. For days, weeks, and months after the attacks, we watched person after person sacrifice for another. People came out in droves to support and cheer on the workers who were giving everything to help in the crisis. For a brief moment we felt as one; one nation with so much heart and goodness that everyone was proud to call it home.
The truth is, you can pile up riches as far as you can see, believe that you are somehow exempt or untouchable, create a world where you feel superior, but when your child dies from cancer or in an accident – where does that leave you? There is nothing lasting in life but the goodness we give, the love, the beauty, and the hope we pass on. You see, if you loved that child and showered them with goodness – gave them your time, attention, and the best of your heart, then you will be without them, but surrounded by the love you shared and comforted by a bond that transcends death. You could live without regrets.
Goodness is the greatest weapon against evil. The most important thing about goodness is that when it is at work, darkness diminishes, but when goodness retreats, darkness dominates. Goodness is a light that dispels the dark things. It is an antidote for evil. It is powerful in its own right. We cannot protect ourselves from all hardship and pain, but we can brighten the light of goodness so that others can see. My mind still holds on to the pictures of people helping each other after 9.11. Within seconds Goodness was overcoming evil, light was rising from the darkness, and hope was being shared. That is who we really are America. Realize the overcoming power of Goodness and let it rise in you. Your Goodness counts more than you know!
A “Good” Idea:
Visit your local fire department or police headquarters. Tell them thank you for the way they serve. Bake some cookies or write a thank you card for them to keep. Let the people who sacrifice for you know that it matters.