Look for the good in people – you won't have to look far (Editor's Notes)

Random acts of kindness will make you a little less jaded

To say, “People are generally good” is 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 police.

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 have an experience on a recent trip to New Orleans that endeared that city to me. If you’ve ever been there, 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 far off the beaten tourist track of the French Quarter. We took a cab to the bar, despite mild warnings and protestations from the driver, and settled in for 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. When we said  we were waiting for a cab, she said: “They’re not coming. They won’t come here after dark.”

To a couple of guys from Ontario, that was unfathomable. There isn’t a neighbourhood in Toronto where cabs won’t 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.

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