25 March

Some Unsought Advice: Do Some Good

by Jon Katz

As many of you know, I don’t care for unwanted advice. I believe the old axiom about advice: fools won’t take it, smart people don’t need it.

Will Rogers advised people never to miss a chance to shut up.

But these are unprecedented times, unlike anything I have lived through, and people from all over the country are telling me they are confused, frightened, and depressed.

I hate being told what to do, and I try never to tell anyone else what to do. I write about myself, a monologue, not a dialogue.

So I will break my own rule and offer some advice for getting through this wrenching and scary time. Please feel free to ignore me and follow your own heart.

Maybe it will help someone.

My advice is simple and spare, and it comes from the extraordinary experience I have had these past few years working daily with a fantastic group of people we call the Army Of Good.

I know almost none of them, and will probably never meet all but a few of them. We have done a world of good for thousands of people.

I think many of us have learned a valuable lesson these past few years. It feels good to do good. It feels grounded to do good. It is healing to do good. Doing good pushes aside fear and anger, judgment, and doubt.

It’s really true: it’s better to do good than to argue about what good is. Anger and fear hatred accomplish nothing, fix nothing, help nothing.

Doing good is transformative. It has helped me keep my feet on the ground for several years now, and it is helping me now as much of the country is in danger of melting down.

You can do good at home if you are housebound. You can do good outside if you are not. You can do good online by talking to lonely and frightened people.

I’ve done more good in the past few weeks than I did for most of my life, and I didn’t have to leave my home for most of it. It’s a matter of the heart and the will.

Soon, you will be able to do good by going outside in certain circumstances, especially if you are healthy and younger than 70. Soon, food pantries will be open and busier than ever. So will hospitals. So will elderly people afraid to leave their homes.

Refugee and immigrant families are all over the country. Many will need help feeding their families, getting heating oil for the winter, paying their care insurance so they can drive to work.

It is rewarding – even patriotic – to help these new Americans.

All of them will need volunteers.

Soon, the elderly’s nursing homes and assisted care facilities will open up again, and they will desperately need volunteers to talk to the residents, read to them, help them paint and sew and sing and dance. To show up.

If you are bound at home now,  you can join one of the hundreds, even thousands of groups online connecting people who need things with people who can help them.

Like sick people recovering from illness, depressed and lonely people who need someone to listen to them,  older people afraid to go shopping with younger people who want to help them get food.

And people who need someone to take care of their lawns and walk their dogs.

I know this can be done. I have been doing it for some years now.

Every town, city, and village in America has people, businesses, schools, homes, phone banks, homeless shelters, food pantries hospitals who desperately need help and many will soon require more help than ever.

Our lives will go one, but we have some hard years to get through before we fully get our lives back.

I can’t remember any time in my life when more people needed more and different kinds of help. There is no reason for me to sit inside of my house and tremble.

I can do all kinds of good. And it is better to do good than live in fear.

Three years ago, in a simpler time (what a shock to say that), I remembered reading a quote from Maya Angelou about complaining and lament:

“What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”

Don’t be paralyzed by fear or grievance. Don’t speak poorly of your life. Don’t live in a cloud of anxiety and depression. Don’t let other people guide your feelings.

By all means, get help if you need it. By all means, give help to someone who needs it if you can.

I feel stable and secure now. I am hopeful. I don’t let the news define me or my life; I don’t let any politician take over my head and heart.

Every morning, I wake up and ask myself what good I can do today. And I do it. And I feel good and secure about myself and my life and the future.

And I am no saint and no wizard.

And believe me, I am no Pollyanna.

I see the world very clearly, I was a good reporter for a good long time, and I saw things nobody should see.

If I can walk out of the fog of fear and anger that was my life, so can anyone. You don’t need to be frightened or terrified.

Do some good in the world, and I believe doors will open to you that you have been too distracted and manipulated to imagine. A good friend of mine was miserable moving from one awful job to another. She ended up serving healthy food at a senior center and was never happier.

So that’s my advice. I will now do what  Will Rogers suggested I do and shut up.  I write this with love and empathy.

Some things are easier said than done.

Some things are easier done than said.

Doing good is one of them. It is free and right at your fingertips, and trust me, you will feel better in a flash.

4 Comments

  1. Your blog and podcast really help a lot and I thank you so much for doing this for me and so many others. I have managed to keep busy but I do have my moments that are hard to bear. Blessings to you both!😊

  2. Awesome advice, Jon, and so true. Doing good does keep us grounded and helps us rise above fear. I’m so thankful for all the good that you and the Army of Good do. Blessings to you and Maria and all of us. Love you guys.

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