Optimism lesson

Depression saps the effort to make things better. Why not try hope?

Bob Schmidt is a longtime journalist and SN&R contributor

The world today kind of weakens the argument for evolution, doesn’t it? Certainly the world today proves that “survival of the fittest” doesn’t mean “survival of the best.”

It’s 2010, and people are still killing each other and stealing from each other, and there are millions of babies in the world dying of starvation. How can that be?

Greed, incompetence and corruption are plaguing the people of nations all over the world, including ours. And mankind has been evolving for hundreds of millions of years. Evolving toward what?

At the same time, the mess the world is in doesn’t do much to support the contention that intelligent design by a supreme being is responsible for its creation. If that were the case, the designer would have a lot to answer for.

So it’s pretty normal to be depressed, especially if you are, as I am, a parent and a grandparent.

Depression is not a good thing. It saps the effort to make things better. Optimism, hope, is necessary for that. So is there any reason to be optimistic, to have hope?

There is. Right here in Sacramento, there is. In every city in the country, there is.

There are people doing good things, for no reason other than there are good things that need doing.

People volunteer to be docents at the Sacramento Zoo, at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center, and at art galleries and museums and libraries. There are people who spend time each week reading to the blind. Those are good people.

The Sierra Club has a program called Inner City Outings, which promotes appreciation and protection of the natural environment through wilderness adventures and environmental education by taking young people on fun and educational outings such as hikes, camping trips, snowshoe and snow play days, backpacking, and nature walks.

The program works because adult volunteers, good people, give up days and weekends to make it work.

Sometimes the kids taken on the trips come from St. John’s Shelter, which, with staffing abetted by volunteers, provides temporary quarters for more than 100 women and children who otherwise might be homeless, with the objective being to move the mothers from being helpless to being self-sufficient.

There’s a program in Sacramento and San Francisco called Today’s Youth Matters, which recruits and trains volunteers to provide programs for young people who otherwise don’t have caring adults in their lives.

There are many other examples of good people who give of their most valuable possession, their time, to do good things, and they live in every city.

There are also philanthropists, of course. Good, generous people giving substantial amounts of money to good causes. But it’s the people who give of their personal time, one-on-one, who make the most difference.

It’s important to remind ourselves of such people; otherwise, we’d be thinking too much about the greed, incompetence and corruption, the bad people doing bad things, that afflict the world.

And that’s depressing.