Limping over the line into 2013, world news is bleak as usual. At the forefront are headlines on gun violence and the narrow avoidance of the “fiscal cliff” south of the border, and the death toll in Syria. Every new year seems to bring more doom and gloominess—as it would appear according to the media, anyway. However, there are certainly some stories with positive and promising outcomes leading us into 2013.
In Vancouver just before the new year, a 13-year-old autistic boy walked away from his home and disappeared over the sub-zero Sunday night. Police searched for him throughout the city overnight, putting out the word. On the morning of Dec. 31 he was found unharmed on a trail near UBC.
The “Idle No More” movement for aboriginal rights continues to gain support—there have been rallies in Texas, Hawaii, and New Zealand and the stories continues to grace headlines.
The latest oil rig incident in Alaska is currently reported as not having resulted in a leak. And apparently, the NHL and the players’ association reached an agreement during the early hours of Jan. 6, but (speaking as a hockey fan) it has been so long and ridiculous that I can barely care anymore.
Well, those are all half-promising anyway—stories of negative events that turned out well in the end or have a whiff of positive change about them. The reality of news and journalism is that drama, chaos, and uncertainty are the bread and butter of the business. We look for the problems, the absences, and the disappointments, and that’s what we write about with the objective to reveal and inform. But there’s that moment when as a writer (universally true for journalists, fiction writers, and so on) we hear of something unfortunate—a bad statistic, a sad story, and think yes. That is what I will write about—and there is a certain amount of relief that goes with the bad news because that means that this is a story that people will be interested in. Then there is that brief, immensely guilty moment where we realize that the reaction is not about someone else’s misfortune, but about our fortune for having that story to write about.
It’s easy to get lost in and even desensitized to the bad news—which calls for a trip to the World Gratitude Map. (Found at <gratitude.crowdmap.com/>.) Anyone can pin what they’re grateful for on their location and read what others are grateful for around the world. Yes, it gets a bit tiresome after a few minutes of clicking on “thank you’s” and “I love my kids” but some notes of thanks become more specific and cute “I’m grateful that I can read” and “I love my hand-knitted socks.” It’s a small dose kind of exercise lest it wear out its welcome (at least in the initial stages) but according to Scientific American, using something like the gratitude map is healthy—mentally, and potentially physically. It’s not just important to experience something positive, but to consciously acknowledge it, which leads to a more positive, empathetic outlook towards everyday life. In an interview with Scientific American, one of the map’s creators, Jacqueline Lewis says “It is moving your mind over to this place where I think we should all be, which is to keep our eyes on all that is good, beautiful, and possible in the world.”
I think that there is something—some humane act or some piece of fortune for even one individual in a bleak place—to be grateful for in even the worst of stories. In Newtown, quick-thinking and selfless teachers saved many children’s lives. Around the world in war zones, many journalists, heroes in their own right, risk their safety to bring us the bad news with the hope that perhaps something good can come of it, eventually. After all, the only thing worse than bad news, is no news.