Publisher's Desk|Canadian HR Law|HR Policies & Practices|Employment Law|The C-Suite|HR Guest Blog

Look for the good in people – you won’t have to look far

Random acts of kindness will make you a little less jaded

By Todd Humber

People are generally good.

I get it — that’s a weird statement. We kind of know that, right? But perhaps sometimes we forget it. In the world of human resources, too often professionals are exposed to the worst in people — dealing with sexual harassment, violence, workplace theft and more.

If you know any cops, you’ll know they tend to be a little jaded. It’s hard to blame them — they spend the bulk of their time dealing with idiots, and after a while they just kind of assume people are bad until proven otherwise.

My old neighbour was an RCMP officer. It took him a while to warm up to me, and even longer to admit what he did for a living. It wasn’t until he was sure I was a “good guy” that he opened up — he just kind of assumed I probably had a criminal record, and might not take kindly to having a police officer living next door.

But assuming the worst in people is a bad road to go down. It’s also just wrong. Last week, news surfaced out of Vancouver about a police officer who had gone undercover in an attempt to bust the person or persons responsible for assaulting and robbing vulnerable people in wheelchairs.

Instead, Staff Sgt. Mark Horsley got a lesson in human compassion. Even in one of the worst neighbourhoods in the country, Vancouver’s notorious downtown eastside, he found exceeding kindness. He never caught the attacker — but what he did get was a lesson.

People are generally good.

Citizens constantly went out of their way to help him, not hurt him, according to a Toronto Star article.

He made it easy to be a victim. He displayed cash openly. He asked people to buy him stuff — and every time he got the item, and all his change back. In some cases, he got more money back than he was entitled to.

“We had people that needed money, people that are drug sick, people that were desperate, yet they wouldn’t stoop so low as to assault or rob me,” said Horsley. “And I think that says something good about the human condition. I believe that people are good and want to be good.”

I don’t have a story to equal Horsley, but I did experience something on a recent trip to New Orleans that I will never forget — something that endeared that city to me.

If you’ve ever been to New Orleans, you know there are some rough neighbourhoods — areas that make Vancouver’s downtown eastside look like relative paradise.

A friend and I decided to go see one of our favourite jazz musicians — Kermit Ruffins — perform his regular gig on Tuesday night at Bullet’s Sports Bar. Bullet’s is in the Seventh Ward, far off the beaten tourist track of the French Quarter. We took a cab out to the bar, despite some mild warnings and protestations from the driver, and settled in to watch the show.

It was a fantastic night, filled with great music, great people and great barbecue. When the trumpets stopped playing at 10, we called a cab to take us back to our hotel. They said they would send one — we waited a half hour, nothing. We called every cab company in the book. When we told them the address, they said they didn’t have any cars available.

As it approached 11, the bar closed and out came our waitress, Tina. She asked what we were doing, and we said “waiting for a cab.” In a very matter of fact voice, she said: “They’re not coming. They won’t come here after dark.”

To a couple of guys from Ontario, that was an unfathomable statement. There isn’t a neighbourhood in Toronto where cabs won’t line up to come get you. Tina pulled up in her van and said “hop in.” It was her birthday, and she was heading to a party. But she had time to drag a couple of Canadians back to the French Quarter.

Her low fuel light was on, and yet she refused any payment. We left $20 on the seat, to protests.

So yes, people are generally good.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Todd Humber

Todd Humber is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Canadian HR Reporter, the national journal of human resource management. Follow him on Twitter @ToddHumber
(Required, will not be published)
All comments are moderated and usually appear within 24 hours of posting. Email address will not be published.