Prior to writing this column, one of my rituals is to visit the Glendale News-Press website to see if there are any stories I may have missed in the print edition. This week, my eye caught hold of a statistic. It appears that the Jan. 15 police report was the third most viewed story on the website.
The fact that the police report ranks so high on the most viewed list causes some conflict within me. The more primitive part of me is glad the paper dedicates column space to publicizing the names of individuals who are arrested on suspicion of burglary, drug possession and such. Perhaps it’s Ye Olde Vigilante in me that finds this type of retribution fitting. It reminds me of the rack in the town square where criminals would be subject to public display and ridicule for crimes against the community.
Yet even though part of me believes people who do bad things ought to be “outed,” the more evolved human within me refuses to read that section of the paper because doing so perpetuates the negative.
I know what you’re saying, “Gary, don’t you have enough major conflicts in your life without having to over analyze a simple police blotter?”
Even though the answer to that is “yes,” I still wish the good news stories were higher up on the most viewed list. There are far more good people in our community than bad apples. Likewise, there is more positive than negative occurring in the world. It just doesn’t get the press because it doesn’t get the ratings.
For every dramatic random bombing or senseless act of violence, there are millions of quiet, unreported acts of kindness and humanity on both a large and a small scale occurring all the time.
For every celebrity caught in a dubious scandal, there are countless others helping to raise awareness or money for a worthy cause. The only reason you don’t hear about them is because TMZ and other news sources know the public would rather fill their bellies with tales of failure rather than stories of stoic triumph. Why? Because someone else’s failure makes our own esteem higher by default.
I’m not trying to be Pollyanna about how we should filter the news, but if it is true that we perpetuate our existence by the things we do, then it might be time to shift our emphasis away from the negative and toward the positive — and that might include the stories and news we choose to follow.
Yes. We will always need an unfiltered view of the world — and some of what we hear is going to be bad. But what if could we actually reduce the amount of bad in the world by focusing our attention on the good? If, as individuals, our perceptions help create our reality, could we shift the way the entire world works simply by refocusing those perceptions? Could our positive individual viewpoints collectively make the planet a better place?
Let’s look at the six new police volunteers in our community. These people could have easily slipped into retirement, yet they chose to focus their desire to improve the world by taking on the responsibility of acting as volunteer patrollers for the Police Department.
One of them, Vartan Hovnanian, joined the program to help put an end to pedestrian traffic collisions. He did so to honor a friend who was killed while crossing Columbus and California avenues.
Senior volunteers have dedicated more than 10,000 hours of service, saving the city more than $263,000. That’s cool beans, man.
Now I ask you: does that story make your world brighter than reading about some dummy that was arrested for driving under the influence? I think on some scale it does.
Or what about Clark Magnet High School art teacher Judith Craemer? After a long, productive career as a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, she was named regional Educator of the Year for Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.
Like most people who love what they do, Craemer didn’t get into teaching to gain recognition and win awards. She did it because she was passionate about helping young minds grow and learn. The recognition was just the proverbial icing on the cake.
And if you can’t survive without your dose of bad news, then there’s always the sudden and tragic passing of Iraq war veteran Ace Hudson — another front-page article. But rather than fixate on the obvious sadness of his death, be grateful that you got to read about a man who lived his short life honorably, beloved by those who knew him and now respected by those of us who were only able to read about how good a person he was.
Maybe the acknowledgement of Ace’s good life will help his family cope with their loss. If so, we will have proven my theory that shifting our emphasis toward seeing the positive will result in a better world.
GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.