Good and Bad

Last week, I covered a wonderful, uplifting story for the Chicago Tribune about a group that works to secure funds from large corporations and organizes volunteers to build playgrounds in low-income or impoverished neighborhoods.

The group KaBOOM! has built scores of these elaborate playgrounds around the country, there are more than 140 in the poorer communities in the Chicago area. This story was about a playground built by nearly 500 people/volunteers/community members/businessmen and local officials on the east side of Elgin Ill.

The older, working class neighborhood is bordered by busy roads and dotted with run down homes. If a child from that neighborhood wanted to go to a park, they’d have to cross very dangerous roads and walk far from their home in unsafe neighborhoods to find one.

 So on that beautiful Fall day, hundreds of  people –many not even from the area who will never know a child who will call that their playground– laughing and chatting up strangers turned work partners for the day (and possibly friends for a lifetime) gathered to assemble play equipment, shovel tons and tons of mulch and black dirt and mix and pour concrete on an eight-acre site.
As this was going on, another group of volunteers was going to various nearby run down houses, cleaning up yards, doing some much-needed painting and other household repairs that needed tending to. Many of these homeowners were just too old and not able-bodied to do these tasks, so volunteers did it for them.

One story I heard involved a group of men who walked up to knock on the door of a tattered old house to ask what they could do for the elderly woman living there alone. As they walked up to the door, the porch of this home literally collapsed! Imagine if that poor old woman would have been alone and fallen through that porch.

In another story I heard about that day, volunteers knocked on the door of another older woman’s home, while at the same time a different group of volunteers met a man who lives nearby who sad he is always looking for ways to help the community.  He just happened to be an experienced rehabber. So the volunteers put these two different homeowners, who live just steps from each other, together. Now the man has committed himself and his four teenage sons to “adopt” this woman and help her out around her home on a regular basis.

These heart warming, genuine stories of simple human goodness reminded me that there is just so much good in the world. And it was a reminder I so badly needed. Because last week I also worked on other stories that were less than warm and fuzzy.

These stories involved  allegations of sexual child abuse, a husband sent to prison for trying to murder his wife, another man who is going to prison for trying to murder the ex-lover of his girlfriend.

These scenarios were all so very different from those that I witnessed and/or heard of in Elgin.

The one common thing involved: humanity. In one week I experienced the best and the worst in humanity.

This compilation of stories and experiences, a glimpse of just one week in my life, again reminded me of this lesson: We all have the potential for good and bad. It is a choice to be good or bad, to do good or bad. And whatever we choose affects countless numbers of others.

You choose.