Several years ago I began writing for a company in Tennessee that was founded by world-renowned writer Alex Haley, author of “Roots”, “The Autobiography of Malcom X”, and “Queen”. At the time I didn’t know he was related to the company. I just liked the fact that I was regularly assigned interesting stories about cool people doing cool things – just the type of stories I like to write.
After a couple of years and a few fun assignments, I was talking on the phone to my editor and he mentioned how much he loved where he worked. As I asked him more about his job, he mentioned that the company was founded by Haley. Two of Haley’s books were turned into award-winning television mini-series.
As we talked, he casually mentioned that one of the things he really liked was that each day when he came to work, he walked underneath Alex Haley’s motto that was emblazoned across the entrance to the building.
Find the good in people and tell it.
When I heard him say that motto, I was struck by the simple words and how much they meant to me in my own writing and storytelling. The message hit home – that is EXACTLY what I like to do.
I get tired of the negativity I often read in the news, on social media, and all across the airwaves. The divisiveness and anger and ugliness I often read turns me off. Granted, I believe there is a place for hard-hitting reporting. In fact, investigative reporting is critical to our democracy and open society. But digging for the truth and spouting highly biased and opinionated ugliness are two different things entirely. Truth is always good. Opinions and slanted reporting is not always so good.
I am an eternal optimist. I believe if you dig deep enough, you can find good in most people. Conversely, if you dig deep enough, you can also find a bit of ugliness in most people, short of Jesus. We are humans, and humans are complex. Most people have a constant battle in their heads between good and evil, do the right thing or do the easy thing, between truth and little white lies.
Hence, in my opinion, if you dig enough, you can find evil and ugliness somewhere in everyone’s past, even if they are basically good people and didn’t intend on being evil and ugly. And even people who mean well can make mistakes, or unintentionally insult another person. Dig deep enough and you can find mistakes in just about everyone.
But if you dig deep enough you can also find goodness in most people. At least that is what I believe. Or I choose to believe.
So those words from Alex Haley struck home and really resonated with me, and drives my writing today. I like to find the good in people and in the world, and tell about it. I will let others dig for the ugliness. There is plenty of both to go around.