Good People Doing Great Things

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Some recent events and encounters with certain passionate non-fiction authors have put a burden on my heart, a sense of responsibility or obligation  to help speed them on their way any way I can.  These are generous-hearted, non-judgmental, self-less souls who have identified a pocket or whirlpool of  suffering or injustice that has so stirred them that they feel compelled to speak out in the effort to right a wrong or draw attention to sad and seemingly hopeless situations, situations that don’t make the front pages of newspapers or national news, but are no less tragic because of the world’s ignorance  or indifference.  In the process of trying to give voice to these stories, to just do something, anything, to help alleviate what they see as senseless pain and deprivation, their own lives have been transformed. They have in a very real sense become larger people, heroes even, if you will.

In my long and checkered past as a journalist, I interviewed hundreds of authors for major media, but most of them were literary luminaries with dazzling reputations among the cognoscenti. Don’t misunderstand me, I enjoyed every minute of it, bathing as a young writer in their reflected glory and picking up some very valuable writing advice and technique.  It was a privilege, certainly, and advanced my own skill and career immeasurably.

Yet today this strikes me as limited and cold-hearted on my part.  The pursuit of literary art is a fine and wonderfully worthy ambition, and the benefits spread slowly yet inevitably throughout societies and cultures.

But true to say, most people will never read those books, they appeal to a rarefied audience, and in the meantime truly good people who got off their duffs to help the silently suffering go largely unremarked, even ignored, as not being glamorous enough, or famous enough, or rich enough to warrant any attention or respect.

This is a roundabout way of saying that I am hatching a plot for a series of interviews tentatively titled “Good People Doing Great Things,” on this blog with non-fiction “authors,” most of them not pros, but decent people whose rising gorge of indignation at the wrongs they witness makes it impossible for them to remain silent, and who go to great personal effort and often personal expense, to truly make the world a better place by dealing with, not global tragedies or injustices, but the tragedies right under their noses, whether at work, in their communities or cultures.  They make sacrifices to do this, they do not this for glory or notoriety, but simply to be of help to those in desperate circumstances or to tell a human story that cries out to be told.

This guilt inspired (I’ll be honest here)  purpose of mine could very well evolve into a separate blog, maybe even an annual “book,” who knows, it’s too early to say.  But I’ve found that if you wait to put together a 10 year plan with exhaustive cost-benefit analyses, teams of experts, etc., nothing at all will ever get done.  People (and animals, the planet) will continue to suffer and die senselessly while the world goes on its merry way.

I have four or five authors lined up to get this launched.  I am not sure when the first will appear here, but I hope you’ll stay tuned.  For these are not just studies in personal nobility or selfless sacrifice, but gripping stories that easily could be novels or stories of redemption achieved by going out of oneself to save others.

Shades of St. Francis.  This basic message resonates throughout the gospels.  If you would save your life, you must first lose it, lay it down, that is, your unreconstructed selfish self, and live for others.

Most starts are wobbly and uncertain with any new endeavor, but if you bear with me, I believe we will all reap enormous rewards in bringing these stories to light.

Finally, if you know of someone or a group of people who seem worthy of such notice, I encourage you to let me know who they are.  Maybe we’ll even have some guest bloggers here doing the interviews.  We’ll have to see what develops.

Whatever the case, the motive is pure and as they say, “it can’t hurt, and it might even help.”

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About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
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12 Responses to Good People Doing Great Things

  1. Lonie Fulgham says:

    Reblogged this on Reconsiderations and commented:
    Looking forward to this!

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  2. Thanks, Lonnie! There are some great stories to be told, galvanizing and inspiring, I’m excited about this.

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    • Lonie Fulgham says:

      Thought you might appreciate these if you have a few minutes to look around. I hope all is well 🙂 http://reino-capital.com/Video-Petromax.html & Case Studies: http://reino-capital.com/Video-Petromax.html

      Like

      • These are all to the good, surely, but they are corporate actions by businesses trying (rightfully) to be responsible–as they should be. The intended focus of my interview series will be gutsy sensitive individuals who stick their necks out, who refuse to ignore the individual human tragedies right outside their door, or next door, or in their communities. My focus is hands-on immediate help offered by brave people at great personal sacrifice often, who simply will not relegate a homeless family to a govt agency, people who stop on a busy road to pick up an injured animal and take it to the veterinarian at their own expense, who say “Enough! Leave that kid alone!” when they see someone abusing a child in a parking lot. Too much is delegated and too much human and animal suffering continues unmitigated. The govt and NGOs can’t solve the problem, only individuals can. When we as individuals accept this obligation and act on it every day of our lives, the world will indeed be a better place–and faster than waiting for an organization or police dept. or social services agency to step in. Life in extremis has little time. My father was a doctor, and at the risk of getting sued, for 30 yrs I saw him step in without hesitation to help remediate an impossible situation. It was messy often, emotionally charged, but he did more good in a month than United Way does in ten yrs. Yes. This effort involves getting your hands dirty, taking chances, spending your own time and money. Why do it? Because it’s the right thing to do, that’s why. Too many people today, heads stuck to a computer screen, are ignoring their basic obligations to suffering lives by giving to the United Way or other charities, and thus distancing themselves from real involvement, avoiding contact and faking out their consciences that they’re “doing the right thing.” They are not. And fortunately there are heroes still to provide the modeling of what we should do, and how to do it, when our consciences and hearts are challenged. Walk away? You become a Zombie. I don’t have time for that sort.

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  3. Pingback: What We Must Do | Margaret Langstaff

  4. 1WriteWay says:

    This is wonderful, Margaret! Such a series would be important not only to showcase those individuals who willingly sacrifice some of their comfort to help others, but also to enlighten and uplift the rest of us who get bogged down with the global and local horrors around us.
    You mention people who stop and help injured animals. That reminded me of something that my husband and I did almost 6 years ago and so I had to look for that post from my blog: http://1writeway.com/2008/10/20/max-the-manx/ It’s hard to believe it’s been so long, and yet the memory of that helpless little kitten is fresh. I imagine it will always be so. I mention this because, for me, helping injured or tossed-away animals is such a natural thing. I don’t see it as gutsy, unless you consider my willingness to acclimate a new cat to a new “herd” is gutsy 😉

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    • You did a good thing with the kitten and probably do many kind and wonderful things every day. It’s an attitude powered by innate overwhelming compassion, and the joy one reaps from this “hands on” helping is immense. I find I am grateful for these opportunities to stop everything else I am doing–which after all is ultimately trivial–and do what I can to help. They are richly textured grace filled moments that bring us closer to God and they are incomparable to anything else in life in terms of “self-fulfillment” or becoming who we are meant to be as “children of God.”

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      • 1WriteWay says:

        All you say is so true. I still give to charitable organizations, to reach those that I can’t reach myself. But that doesn’t absolve me from providing direct assistance when I can. I’m not religious and yet the Golden Rule — “do unto others as you would have them do unto to you” — is something I try to live by.

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  5. 1WriteWay says:

    Reblogged this on 1WriteWay and commented:
    Margaret Langstaff has a great idea for a series of blog posts: a focus on people who go out of their way to help others, often willingly sacrificing their own comfort in the process. Read her post for more details and follow her blog so you won’t miss this series when it starts.

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