It’s true that tragedy brings out the best in some people. But maybe it’s more accurate to say that times of crisis expose the true nature of a person. So the guy rushing against the crowd and plunging into the smoke and the flames to pull people to safety — That’s not simply the “best” of him, that’s just him. That’s who he is. He’s that guy when the bombs go off, but he’s also that guy when he’s standing in line behind you at the Post Office. Extraordinary people do extraordinary things in extraordinary circumstances. The rest of the time they do ordinary things, but they’re still extraordinary people. It’s good and healthy and appropriate for us to be inspired by these folks. And maybe, hopefully, we can keep this in mind the next time we’re about to freak out on someone for accidentally cutting us off in traffic (I’m looking squarely at the man in the mirror with this example). We’ll scream and call that guy a jerk but, for all we know, he’s 10 times the man we are. He could be one of those extraordinary, rush-into-the-flames types. And we just thanked him with a blast from the car horn and a couple choice words shouted, in cowardly fashion, from a safe distance in a car with the windows rolled up.
I think we’re all so overexposed and overly connected, and we’re surrounded by news of heinous murder and sociopathic violence, and we spend so much time on the internet where anonymous trolls and hateful parasites feast like maggots in an overflowing trashcan, that we tend to assume every stranger is, at the very least, a scumbag but possibly a mass-murderer-to-be. Maybe some of them are. I don’t know the percentages. But a lot of them could also be heroes. Even if they never get a chance to be heroic in a cinematic, newsworthy kind of way.
We should always be realistic. But we also can’t lose our ability to see the good in the world. Again, I’m looking right at you, mirror.