I have a friend who, a couple of years back, decided that she would no longer watch any news. She actively avoids it – no papers, no TV bulletins. It was simply too depressing, she said, and was having a serious impact on the way she felt about the world.
As a journalist, I can’t imagine a life without news (and I don’t imagine my employers would be too impressed either) but over the last fortnight, I have begun to understand a little of what she feels. Because the last couple of weeks have felt relentless.
It began with the Boston Marathon bombings – those awful images of bloodied streets and mangled limbs seared on our retinas as thousands of pictures filled our Twitter streams within minutes of the explosions. Later came the heartbreaking stories of those who lost loved ones, or whose lives have been altered forever by horrific injuries.
Then there was the fire and subsequent explosion at a fertilizer plant in Texas, killing 14 people – many of them emergency service workers. A bus crash in France saw the coach’s driver sacrifice himself to save the 51 passengers on board; there were major earthquakes in Iran and China; harrowing reports that chemical weapons have been used in Syria; the collapse of an apartment building in Bangladesh killing hundreds of people. And of course another poor economic forecast for the UK, and another rise in unemployment.
Big stories like some of these are often what we reporters live for, but this often leaves you in the uncomfortable position of a “good day” at work meaning something pretty awful has happened. It’s not that we enjoy covering bad news, more that getting the opportunity to tell those stories to the rest of the world is the reason we do what we do. But sometimes even we get tired of dealing in the daily currency of doom and gloom.
It’s during these times that it can be hard to find those positive stories that restore your faith in humanity, remind you of basic kindness, and the belief that hope springs eternal. But they are there.
This week, for example, there was the front cover of Boston Magazine’s latest edition. The poignant image of hundreds of marathon runners’ shoes, the vow to “finish the race”, and the story of how it was made gave me goosebumps. A show of dignified strength in a city that has been through so much. This morning a special section of the Boston Magazine website will go live too, where you can read the experiences of the runners that the trainers belong to – sure to be another testament to resilience and determination.
And also in Boston, there was the mystery behind who began dropping $2 bills from the sky onto the streets where the bombing happened. This quiet gesture of kindness – to make people smile on the same spot that saw such horror – was pretty beautiful.
Sometimes, if the news is proving particularly grim, I’ll turn to Positive News for a bit of something to lift my spirits. This week this story about The World Needs More Love Letters – one woman’s mission to send anonymous love letters to perfect strangers – gave me that much-needed boost, and inspired me to get writing some of my own. There’s a similar UK project – One Million Lovely Letters – and I just love the fact that these people have decided to do such kind things for people they’ve never even met.
And finally, if you’re doubting the power of one human being to make another feel loved, then there’s the new Dove ad. Just watch.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpaOjMXyJGk]
And smile. And believe in better. There’s always light in the dark.
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