One aspect of faith is the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity. It may be a naïve way of thinking, especially considering these troubled times. It may be a bit misplaced in terms of focus considering the quantity of murders, robberies, beatings, and home invasions that take place every day. However, if we cannot believe that the bulk of those traveling through life with us do so with goodness as a driving force, then we cannot live as faith-filled people.
Back when I was still teaching something occurred at my high school that challenged my faith in humanity. An article appeared in the school newspaper referring to a group of students as “Tard Kart.” In itself, the label does not seem offensive. However, the members of this group described themselves as crazy misfits who were not accepted by the school population at large. Hence, to them, “Tard” was a derivative of the word retard. Kart referred to the food carts which were staffed by Special Education students, the connection, to me, was quite obvious.
Believing that it was a simple mistake, I contacted the teacher who oversaw the Journalism students. The teacher found nothing offensive about the inclusion of the name in the article. When I asked her what she would do if a group called themselves “Spics” or “Wops.” Would she print that? Of course not, she said, as those are ethnic slurs.
The teacher herself had been subjected to ethnic slurs over her entire teaching career. She had been found crying, many times, over the cruelty of students who mimicked her accent and who left insults on the white board in her classroom. One would think that if anyone would be sensitive to negative stereotypes, it would be she.
Earlier in the same week a student was attacked outside my classroom. He was a relatively small freshman compared to others in his class. When I heard loud thumps outside my room, I went outside to see what was happening. My student was on the floor curled up in a fetal position, holding his groin area. Large tears coursed down his cheeks. He was unable to speak or move for more than thirty minutes. When I found out what has happened, I was horrified that two very large seniors had slammed the smaller boy against the wall and kicked him when he was down.
I believe that it was a prank that got out of control. Yes, the students involved tended to be aggressive, defiant, and general malcontents. Yes, they were not on track to graduate in June. Even so, my faith tells me that this “beating” was not a planned act of violence, but rather an opportunistic reaction.
In my seventy-one years of life, I have not only witnessed, but also been a victim of comparable events. As an abused child, I grew up in an environment that was not conducive to the development of faith. It’s hard to believe in a God that allows physical beatings, verbal harassment, and emotional debasement. I prayed, every day, for salvation. My prayers went unanswered, or so I thought.
It was not until I went on a trip to the mountains of southern California with a Catholic youth group from my university that I understood faith. Looking at the towering mountains and walking amid the amazingly tall trees, I realized that there is a God who loves the world so much that He gave us places of solitude and introspection.
God does not always our wishes for He knows that we need to be forged by our experiences. We may not want to walk our given path, but we have to believe that the journey somehow leads us to a clearer understanding of who we are meant to be.
When I stood in that forest I knew that I was not the horrible child that my parents saw. Faith allowed me to witness the goodness inside myself, the goodness inside my parents, and the goodness in those sharing the moment with me. It sounds like a cliché, but I truly felt a golden glow spreading through my body. That glow was faith.
Since that day, my faith has been my rock. It gives me the strength to transcend the travails of daily life. It opens my eyes to the good intentions of others and allows me to feel generosity of spirit. When disheartening or disturbing events rise forth, it is through faith that I am able to process what is happening.
I do believe that all humans are capable of living lives ruled by basic tenets of kindness and generosity of spirit. Even when the news is filled with stories of turbulence, I do not let my belief waver. That is my belief in the goodness of humanity. That is my faith.