My word for 2015 is goodness. As those of you who read my blog regularly know, it’s been a year when goodness has at times been hard for me to find. At other times, though, I’ve been blessed with abundant goodness, a reminder that even in the darkest hours, there’s still hope and things to be thankful for.
In the past few weeks, world events have thrown the idea of “goodness” into sharp focus, and have challenged all of us to find good amidst evil.
In sorting through my late Cousin Mary’s possessions, I found a letter from December 1906 that alludes to “goodness” in a surprisingly modern and topical way.
The letter was sent to Cousin Mary’s mother in a frontier Canadian city, by her uncle in southern California. He offered his “dear niece” congratulations on her upcoming marriage, and expressed regret that he could not attend the wedding.
He then turned to the subject of her fiancé, a great-uncle I never knew.
“No doubt you are going to marry one of the best young men in the world, but let me give you a little advice. Love him for his faults as well as his virtues. Contentment and happiness will be yours if you always look for the good that is in others.”
The world of 1906 was very different to ours of 2015.
Two world wars and the Great Depression were still in the future. Only three years earlier, the Wright brothers’ “flying machine” had lifted off for the first time. Women in the UK, the United States and Canada had not yet won the right to vote. New fiction included E. Nesbit’s The Railway Children, Puck of Pook’s Hill by Rudyard Kipling, and an essay by Mark Twain, What is Man?, which pondered human nature, destiny and free will.
Yet, looking for, and acknowledging the good in others is as relevant now as it was then, and in a contemporary context the letter writer could not have imagined. In faded ink and spidery handwriting, his words from 109 years ago spoke to me as a poignant message not only for my life, but our time.
Has an unexpected message ever touched you?