Ann Bailey: I can't change the whole world, but I can work to make my corner of it better
On Jan. 28, 1972, I wrote this in my seventh-grade English journal: "What the world needs now, is love sweet love, it’s the only thing there’s just too little of.”
I don’t know what event or series of events prompted me to quote from the song "What the World Needs Now is Love.” Maybe because the United States still was engaged in the Vietnam War, and the country also was in the midst of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Or maybe it was for a more personal reason; perhaps I was having a teen-aged girl spat – I was 13 then – with a friend.
Whatever the reason, getting along with others was on my mind. In my teen-aged backhand cursive handwriting, I followed up the song lyrics with my own thoughts, which begin “If everyone would just love everyone else, it would be a great world. There would be peace and everyone would be helping one another.”
My penciled journal entry goes on to say that some of the ways people could show love is to stop blaming each other, rationalizing their inappropriate actions and reacting to encounters with others in unkind ways. Instead, I suggested they try to understand by “walking a mile in their shoes” and stopping to think how they would feel if they were in a similar situation. For example, I wrote “Try to think ‘Now I shouldn't laugh at her. How would I feel?’”
Last week, nearly 50 years after I wrote that journal entry, it came to mind when I started seeing posts on social media and stories in newspapers about shooting, riots and looting. A few days ago, I went up to the attic and found the journal and re-read it. Outside of omitting the cliched quotations of song lyrics, what I wrote in 1972 about my philosophy of how to treat people remains the same as the 13-year-old me: Love one another, be respectful, seek to understand where other people are in their lives and the life circumstances that brought them there.
To quote the master of love, Jesus: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)
During last Sunday’s Mass, I also was struck by these words in the Second Reading, which said, in part, “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in peace and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a Holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you.” (Corinthians 2: 11-12)
I am more realistic than I was when I wrote that 1972 journal entry, and I know I can’t solve the unrest that’s occurring in our nation by quoting from saccharine-sweet song lyrics and Bible verses.
However, I do know where solving the problems should begin, and that’s with me striving to treat every single person with whom I come in contact with love, respect and the dignity they deserve. That may not make a difference on a global scale, but it will make a difference in my little corner of the world.
That's a good place to start.
Ann Bailey is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald who also writes a twice-monthly column.