Our own Humans of New York photographer has been seeing the world. Brandon Stanton is in Africa, and he found a good man in Kampala, Uganda.
It’s a simple portrait, a serious-looking youngish man, facing the camera, and a simple story: The man got a call from a 12-year-old orphan who had ridden a bus into the city alone, hoping to find a way to go to school.
He was angry at the boy for taking a foolish risk, but he decided to help him. He saw himself in the child, because his father had been killed when he was young and he remembered feeling desperate to go to school.
According to Humans of New York, he said, “My salary was not enough, so I tried many things to get the money. After work, I went to the landfill to hunt for recyclables. But after I paid to have them cleaned, there was no money left. Now I’m trying to make bricks. I have a small operation in the village to make bricks, and I sell them in the city. It doesn’t make much money, but it’s enough to pay tuition for the boy and three of his siblings.”
This touched me. It was such a perfect expression of virtue. It was a persistent, generous, humble effort to benefit others.
There is a religious exhortation to think about whatever is good or righteous. Perhaps it is based on the idea that one becomes what one persistently thinks about. Reading the news often exposes a person to the opposite of what is righteous. But as Mr. Rogers said, when bad things happen, look for the helpers.
It’s good to feed the mind with more nourishing food than tales of crime and cruelty.
It’s good to see kind things. On a regular subway ride to Brooklyn, there was a regular panhandler with a regular tale of woe. Me, I averted my eyes. But the man next to me went in his wallet and gave him $5. I snuck a peek at him. He looked calm, strong, and happy. Another panhandler approached him and he gave another 5 spot. Still looked like a mensch. I felt encouraged just knowing he was out there, quietly giving to the destitute.
A relative of mine gives frail elders rides to the doctor. I sometimes overhear hear him talking on the phone to them, inspiring confidence, gentle in tone. He jokes that he is a transporter with a package, as in the Jason Statham “Transporter” movies, which are big crazy martial arts action fests.
That kinsman can be moody. But he is always in a good mood after he transports a package. He is strengthening his virtue, and he feels it.