I was shocked on Christmas Day to see some of my familiar news media offering lists of events that happened in 2022 that were actually good.
What surprised me is how much there was to report. As a news junkie and part-time member of the news media, I heard so little about things that were pleasing, inspiring, optimistic and hopeful (not quite the same as optimism, and arguably more important). Some of these stories confirmed that, despite so many genuinely awful occurrences, things were improving, happy and affirmative of what I valued, as a United States citizen and human being.
That good news was featured around now is appropriate for those who celebrate Christmas, as the word “gospel”–the written accountants of the birth and deeds of Jesus–derives from an old English construction meaning glad tidings.The idea of doing things that increase happiness around this time of year goes back even further, to ceremonies observing the winter solstice, when the sun, whose hours and position overhead appeared to shrink, was now returning, bring the promise of warmth, the spring thaw, rebirth, health and sustenance.
Not all of what I read and saw warmed my heart. A few celebrities who had behaved badly in public (or whose private life was made public) lost a few fans. Politicians who disappointed us were ALMOST held accountable for failing to be the people we thought they were. Much that we were told to fear didn’t happen, hasn’t happened yet or wasn’t worth being afraid of. Pharmaceutical and medical research-and-development departments here and abroad had a shelf-load of treatments, medications, new surgical techniques and devices that will diagnose dangerous disease sooner, and, maybe, cure us of our many, many ills.
That also didn’t thrill me because, if you watch most network news programs, many commercials are for drugs that make similar promises until you hear the almost-too-fast-to-hear “fine print” with such blase’ observations like “may cause death.”
But then there was the fact that gas prices were way down from what they had been. And a tale of an environmentalist whose work with whales and harbor masters had increased the number of whales in one small part of the world. I’m not sure if more whales equals a slightly better world (it may not be great for what the whales eat) but it’s nice to think about.
After a year in which we were shown how some charities were most charitable to those who ran them, it was gratifying to know that the great majority of non-profit public service organizations were actually helping people. More kids who didn’t have the funds to go to college were seeking, and being admitted to, schools that cut their tuition fees. Affordable housing projects admitted their first residents. More people were installing and using renewable “clean” energy systems. A rocket sent from our planet tossed a satellite at an asteroid seven MILLION miles away and made the asteroid change course.
And, on Christmas morning, I could watch on a cellphone screen my three-year-old grandson play with a toy I selected and mailed to him. Way back when I was reading my first science fiction stories, video phones were ways that blaster-wielding heroes could glare in defiance at snickering interplanetary villains, but the rest of us had to make long distance calls and fret about the extra charge for dialing outside our area codes. Now I could see, and hear, someone find happiness from a toy that, way back BEFORE I began to read science fiction, was a wish come true.
Sooner than later the world will have to endure the post-New Years hangover, monstrous credit card bills, and suddenly increased fees for stuff we forgot we were paying for. We’ll have mornings when we slip on the ice from last night’s deep freeze, the car won’t start, we hear sirens and see the ruin of a house or the crumpled damage of an automobile that left its driver barely alive. An appliance we valued for years will suddenly die–just when the year-end sales have ended. The seasonal sicknesses will find us, no matter how careful we were at avoiding them. Some authority figure will insist that what we thought was fine or, at least, okay–was not. Someone will does something terrible will get away with it. A disastrous storm will blow in. Earnest news anchors will tell us of another act of rudeness that forced a passenger plane to make an emergency landing, or introduce us to a place we had never heard of until a mass shooting happened there.
Politicians will let us down. We’ll have to stop doing what we’ve been doing because if we don’t, we’ll bring about the end of the world.
The rich and famous will resume behaving badly in public. My grandchild might tire of his toy, or a new one will distract him.
Life will “get back to normal.”
But we’ll know that, on one day, at least, things were a little bit better.