My children and I took the T downtown to see The Fighter at the multiplex. Riding over the Longfellow Bridge Andy mentioned that 2010 had been the best year of his life. Abby seconded the sentiment, and I had to agree. Each of us had remarkable years – Andy hiking the AT and finding a great niche for himself at UMass. Abby studying in Paris and then travelling through Eastern Europe, and myself, enjoying the reflection of their successes as well as my personal satisfaction working in Haiti.
This morning I read the New York Times Week in Review – The Year in Pictures/2010. Forty-two pictures in all, remarkable images yet entirely disconnected from our family experience. I studied each photo and found a total of two in which people were smiling, while in fourteen photos the subjects welled in despair. A quarter of the photos highlighted destruction, be it natural disaster, man made disaster or the aftermath of war. The number of dead depicted equaled the number smiling, and guns abounded.
Surely Norman Rockwell images do not sell newspapers, but what is the point of portraying the world so relentlessly bleak? The crowds wailing in Port au Prince, Pakistani refuges clinging to an escape helicopter, an Afghan boy staring down gun barrels, Thai protestors cowing in fear, even the boy scouts are portrayed with arrogant anger. The principal images that offer relief relate to sports – a three year old mesmerized by his soccer ball, a man making a grand swan dive into the Tigris River, a parade to honor the World Series’ Giants. Does our only happiness lie in escape?
There is one photograph that captures the possibility for change. Three Brazilian police officers, in bulky uniforms and bullet-proof vests, sit on the floor of a day care center in Rio with toddlers on their laps, part of a community relations effort to bridge the chasm between the police and the residents of Rio’s slums. It is the only picture that includes both a smile and a gun.
My influence on what the New York Times publishes as year end review is, at best, one in six billion. Still, I intend to do what little I can to see if next year they might come to see the world through a more balanced lens. I do not deny the tragedy and heartache of this world, but I refuse to dismiss the joy. This year, I want to see more smiles and fewer guns.
2011 is staring off with tremendous promise. On January 2, Abby, Khaled and I fly to Haiti to participate in excavating, siting, and installing the foundations for the BeLikeBrit orphanage in Grand Goave. Less than a year after the devastating earthquake of 2010, it is an honor to participate in reconstruction. On January 9 we fly to South Beach for a few days of R&R, where we will bed joined by Andy, my housemate Paul and my friend Larry. We return to Boston on January 12 in time to attend the gala in honor of Britney Gengel, who died on January 12, 2010 but whose spirit will live on in her orphanage. It is an auspicious beginning to a positive year.