For Goodness Sake

Do you believe goodness matters? Or that goodness is a virtue? Or that goodness is more prevalent than ugliness, rudeness, and violence? How we see the world boils down to where we look and our sources of information about the world. If we only tune into mass media information, it’s easy to fall into despair; for evil and cruelty are real and reported ad nauseum in media outlets.

Yet, if we turn off the flow of news and spend time among the people around us, we will see people quietly and calmly going about their lives. I spent last Saturday at a book festival at a huge outlet mall. Dozens of us were set up at the various entrances into the outdoor corridors leading to the shops and dining venues. This is the tale of that day.

A Community of Strangers

It took me three tries to find the check-in place, but I got there thanks to the directions given me by other authors busy setting up. Near the check-in table, I found two young women struggling to set up their canopy. Since I’d just rehearsed how to set mine up the previous day, I told them I’d gladly help them as soon as I unloaded my car; in exchange for them helping me.

When I returned, I learned a plastic piece of their canopy had broken, rendering it fit only for the curb trash pick-up pile. I offered them space in mine once we got it up. We three worked on it with moderate results. Then the husband of another author assigned to our location finished the task for us. I later learned he’s a retired engineer who proudly claims that he fixes things. Over the next half hour, we set out our materials and got acquainted.

Unforeseen Problems

Another man representing a non-profit showed up and soon four hopeful authors, plus two who came along to provide encouragement, waited to greet the shoppers as they began to trickle in. It turns out that, for reasons I never learned, the power was out so none of the shops were open. That included the coffee shop located a few yards from our tables. I had intended to reward myself for the effort to get there and set up with a treat from there, but that plan didn’t work out very well.

We waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, a few folks came by and we four authors began trading books for cash. I earned enough to cover my entrance fee for the space. More importantly, I had conversations with some remarkable people.  Taryn just graduated from Ohio State University and has already published two volumes of her poetry. She was accompanied by her roommate, also a new graduate. Some of their friends stopped by to greet them and stayed. Another college student joined the conversation. He talked with me a long time about his plans to go to graduate school to become a licensed mental health professional. I gave him a copy of A Ready Hope about what happens the first year after a disaster hits a community. It has a lot of information in about responding to people who’ve been through a disaster of some sort.

Connections Everywhere

The author on my other side was a mid-fifties woman who had to completely reinvent herself when both her job and marriage blew up a while back. I gave her a copy of Asunder as I’ve experienced that too. She writes poetry, along with now being a massage therapist. Not the occupation English majors typically pursue, but a woman does what she has to do to keep going.

Brian on the other side of the new OSU grads came to the event from Cincinnati. His daughter just took a position in Columbus, so we discussed various neighborhoods in Columbus. She lives one community west of mine.

Let There Be “Open” Signs

Around noon the power came back on. One by one “Closed” signs flipped to “Open” ones. I jumped up to go get my belated coffee when Mr. “I fix things” offered to get it for me, so I wouldn’t miss any of the dribble of people stopping by our tables. Ah. Coffee. Life is good.

Being an outdoor event, I was assured my 20-pound Mini-poodle Brandi would be welcome. As I had anticipated, he drew folks to the table and relished the attention, along with the dog treats I encouraged visitors to give him. That generated numerous conversations about dogs. A couple of folks showed me photos of their pooches. One woman who fussed over Brandi had just come from a dog rescue run to raise money to care for and place stray and unwanted dogs. She came to the event to support poetess Taryn. Through an OSU alumni mentoring program this author has been coaching Taryn in her authoring efforts.

The highlight of the day was the end of the day. After I had everything packed up and ready to take back to the car it was time to dismantle the tent; a task best done with a team. In the few minutes it took me to move my car closer to the curb to load, my neighbors came together like a reverse Amish barn-raising team. They had the canopy ready to put in its case. Then Brian insisted on hauling my stuff to the car and getting it all inside for me. When I stopped for a quick fast-food lunch before starting the drive home the cash register attendant showed me a way to save $3 on the order. I drove home smiling.

Goodness Abounds

My dear readers, the point of all this rambling is that goodness is still alive and well in the world. It is there in a retired engineer fetching coffee for a stranger. I saw it in a young college student preparing to be a mental health professional because he believes that path best prepares him to do something to address destructive behavior. We can see it in the veteran author helping a young woman launch a writing career. It was there in a team of strangers coming together to help this aging author participate in a book fair.

A line from one my many favorite hymns, This is My Father’s World, puts it this way: “That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.” Was the time and effort to make a two-hour round trip, to set up a table at a mall with no power, where I sold only enough to cover the cost of being there worth it? Absolutely. It was a powerful reminder that goodness abounds.

Goodness is everywhere and anywhere people swap stories about themselves, share photos of their dogs and family, and help one another. Those simple things make goodness grow. Goodness toward one another is the glue that holds society together. That is what gives hope; hope that displaces fear and despair.

We cannot and should not ignore the news. But for the sake of our mental health and the well-being of our communities, we must also turn off the news and tune into what the strangers all around us are doing. For goodness sake, take time to talk to strangers.

PS: It’s OK to stop by a table at a book festival and not purchase a book from the author waiting there to greet you. Authors love to chat with people who want to discuss the ideas in their work and what prompted them to write about them.

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Mary Brewster’s Love Life and Mayflower Chronicles: The Tale of Two Cultures: available wherever books are sold.; Mary Brewster Brewster’s Love Life
BarnesandNoble/MaryBrewster Autographed copies are available on my website.


  1. Kathy,

    Always so good to read of your latest adventures and how life flows around and through you!

    Blessings on your continuing journey and I hope the yours’s and my journey cross path again in the future.


  2. Thanks Art. I had a long catch up lunch with Penny Christianson today and told her the story about how you were the one to get me involved in outdoor ministry – a few years ago! Hope you are well wherever you are these days.

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