- Troy Hatfield
I’ve been paying attention to the news differently the past few months. It’s novel enough that I pay attention to the news at all – this isn’t typical for me – but the newest book by one of my favorite authors, Alain de Botton, has challenged me to change my habits. The News: A User’s Manual sets out to help us look at the way we interact with the news.
One of his attempts is to challenge our assumptions about the content of the news and the priorities of those who report it. “Journalists and their editors tend to believe that the importance of any event is determined by how anomalous and unusual it is, which almost invariably means how terrible, bloody and murderous it has proved to be.”
So what makes the news? Painting with a broad brush, the most grotesque, depressing, over-the-top and abnormal kinds of things. I’ve realized that one of the reasons I don’t pay attention to the news is that I simply cannot relate to it – my life is, in comparison, extremely boring, unglamorous and uneventful.
This past week a friend encouraged me, citing Galatians 6, to “not become weary in doing good.” I’ve heard the verse so many times, but this time it puzzled me. Why would this be a necessary encouragement?
Then I thought about the news again. We come across so few reports of good being done – yet when they are broadcast, they are remarkable and out of the ordinary. An Ohio teen takes his great-grandmother to prom. Some Arizona students “prank” an Olive Garden waiter by leaving him a gigantic tip. A teacher donates a kidney to help save the life of a student. These are amazing stories, but equally difficult for me to connect with as the more salacious ones.
My experience with doing good is that it’s mostly boring: a kind word, doing the dishes when I’d rather be reading, a suppressed sarcastic comment, sending a text just to let someone know he is on my mind. There aren’t reporters around to write a clever headline. There aren’t photos or stealth phone videos that can be uploaded. There is little chance my actions will end up “trending.”
Goodness is a long, slow slog. Most of us quietly and boringly muddle along. Echoing a great Richard Rohr insight, maybe there is no path to goodness, but goodness is itself the path. (via Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality) And a path without the spectacular isn’t likely to make the front pages of any periodical.
Goodness is likely not celebrated. It might be taken for granted and probably will be taken advantage of. It’s usually private and often thankless. It might feel good, but it might also demand a sacrifice that cancels out those rewarding feelings. Doing good has the potential to be tiring and wearisome.
Maybe Paul’s encouragement to not become weary is actually brilliant advice. I’m glad this little verse is in the Bible – and I’m grateful my friend shared it with me last week. Here’s to doing good, in all its quiet and unsexy potential. And may we all find ourselves mysteriously refreshed and drawn to that long, slow path again and again.
Troy is Lead Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI, where he’s been on staff since 2004. A musician, Anglophile, voracious reader and owner of more black clothing than anyone he knows, Troy has also recently married Lis, a violinist and lover of every member of the animal kingdom. Follow Troy on twitter@tr0yisbald.