I wrote this piece on how goodness is hard work and a daily choice that requires effort after our OMHG chat last week where we asked “Why Does Goodness Matter”. I had to skip out of the conversation early to pick up my girls from their first day of school and all my thoughts came tumbling out that night. This is my definition of goodness and why it matters sparked by that conversation, my 9 year old daughter’s answer is up top-I used more words but I’m thinking she nailed it.
What goodness is & why it matters to me
Goodness is the simple magic we make for each other with our heads, hearts, and hands. A moment of comfort, a blanket hand stitched with memories, a light in the darkness.
So why is goodness is so misunderstood or mistaken for niceness? Niceness is syrupy sweet falseness that wants all things comfortable and pleasant, polite surface smiles with no depth. Niceness is a fast food burger when goodness is stone soup with vegetables pulled from the community garden.
Nice is on hearing your friend has cancer: “Aw hon I’m so sorry, there there. Can I get you a tissue?”
Goodness is: “I love you, thank you for telling me. I’ll be by tomorrow to bring a meal and take the kids for the day, call me anytime.” And then actually showing up.
Goodness isn’t always nice, pleasant, easy, comfortable or effortless. It is a choice to face each day (including the darkness that creeps into all our lives, whether it is a personal loss or a public tragedy) without bitterness or contempt but with bright eyes, hearts and hands open wide.
Goodness matters because no matter how many perfectly styled photos we take, or how carefully we curate our existence, under the surface shine we still live in a world where horrible things happen every. single. day. Without goodness we might cuddle up into cozy tribes of sameness and not worry if our life raft is provisioned for everyone.
Goodness calls us to action, to not avert our eyes, hold our tongues, or withhold our help. It is a reminder that everyone and everything is worthy of goodness, yes, even or most especially the ones who offend us or our ideas of what is right and good and true. Yes, even, or most especially ourselves. Goodness is everyone’s birthright and responsibility.
Goodness has no religion or politics, no gender, or color, socio-economic status or moral high ground, it isn’t competitive and doesn’t care about sales or influence. You can’t buy goodness with money or prestige, only with currency of the heart.
Goodness is not reserved for the elite few who make history like Buddha or Mother Teresa, it is for all of us willing to pay for the remarkable grace of being alive by simply being good to each other and the places we live. Goodness should never be confused for beauty (though it can be beautiful) or sweetness (though it can be so sweet), since it can show up even in concentration camps or the rankest alleyways appearing anywhere people are willing to do the work of turning toward each other instead of away.
For goodness is hard work–crafted with love, time, and intention. It is shoveling driveways for elders, bouncing a neighbors colicky baby, pulling weeds for a sick co-worker, harvesting community food for the winter, reaching out when you’d rather pass by, or setting aside judgement to be there for someone else.
Goodness is also the way the sun lights up the forest, a smile lightens a heavy heart, a warm hug gives strength to go on, a new skill can be passed on, or how a child’s hand feels in yours.
Goodness is nourishment, the deep rich marrow, the juicy sweet centre of being human and alive on this imperfect planet.
Goodness matters because if it doesn’t then what does?
After writing this I found a thoughtful post by Erin Loechner on the myth of effortlessness that connected with many of my thoughts on goodness, except that to me community/goodness/family/effort/love are all the same thing. Not a cozy effortless place to hide from the world and live on cupcakes but a place we build together where we can get warm, stock the pantry with what really fills us, then go out into our lives to think, be, and do good.
My challenge to you for this week of our Academy of Goodness & to kick off our participation in the Compassion Games is:
Finish the statement “Goodness is…” or “Why goodness matters…” in your own words or images, get kids to answer, doodle a picture, ask your neighbours or mentors. Post your answers, tag them #omhg on all the things, or keep them quiet for yourself but let’s do the work to continue this conversation about what goodness is, why it matters, and how to practice it in our own communities and homes.