A long time ago I realized there are only two types of people in this world. Those that make it a better place and those that make it worse. Unfortunately, the latter outnumber the former ten to one. Not because most people are particularly bad, but because they’d rather not get involved. And believe me, I get it.
I work with CRM (consumer relationship management) all day, every day. Marketing is, in the end, about being conciliatory. It’s about finding the heart of product or service that touches the greatest number of people. You can do that by studying people and trying to connect with them through a brand or you can twist your product into the shape they’re looking for – whether it’s what they really want (or need) or not. The first path is much harder than the second, but it’s also the only path that works in the long-run. It’s better to have fewer consumers who are true brand loyalists than lots of one-shot sales. Life is a lot like that too. You can convince yourself that by doing nothing you aren’t hurting anyone and, at best, that may be true. It’s been my experience though that minding your own business and accepting the way things are does as much damage as the people who actually go around lighting fires and kicking puppies.
More than two hundred years ago Edmund Burke wrote “When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one. . .” – a nice sentiment which was adapted into “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing,” which, from a marketing point-of-view, is a much better sound byte. Regardless of what ole Edmund said or wrote, he had the truth of it. A good deal of the terrible things in the world happen with an audience. Case in point, a co-worker told me that she once saw a woman take off her shoe and beat her child with it. The child was apparently in her car-seat crying, so the woman took off her shoe and hit the baby.
My co-worker, who is often fond of telling everyone what a good person she is, called the police while this woman continued to hit a toddler. With a shoe. And she wasn’t the only person watching this scene, there were, apparently, a group of people who were outraged – but not enough to actually do anything. This happened maybe ten years ago and it’s a story this particular person likes to repeat which infuriates me each and every time I hear it. Life is just too short to wait for someone to come to the rescue. Sometimes, you need to step in and do something yourself.
Doing something will, most likely, make you unpopular and will definitely earn you bad looks from your neighbors. I take care of feral cats. I try to find homes for strays, practice TNR for truly feral critters in the colony, and try to make sure that animals that already have a hard life don’t have a harder one. I don’t expect anyone to praise me or give me a cookie. I do hope that those who don’t want to help don’t actually try to stop me from helping, that they don’t shoot the cats, trap them and have them euthanized, or poison them. My hopes often prove fruitless. I learned a long time ago that you can’t save the world – all you can do is try to mop up the mess and apply a few bandages. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Sometimes a thankless task is more rewarding than one with guaranteed success.
And, hey, sometimes you’re wrong. Sometimes you may not save the world, but you save one cat or one person or change someone’s point-of-view. That’s what keeps you going. The poets have hope all wrong. It isn’t delicate. It isn’t a “thing with feathers,” it’s a thing with claws. It scraps on even when all the odds are against it.
That’s why no matter how tough things are, you can always have hope, and you can always convince others to have hope too. Hope is hard (and sometimes bitter,) but apathy is like a plain oatmeal – cozy but bland. Hope is the toy surprise in life’s box of cereal. You may have to dig a bit to get it, but it’s always there – guaranteed. And in the end, isn’t that what life’s really about – the toy surprise. It may not be what you wanted or even what you expected. But it’s the joy of opening it that makes it all worthwhile – that one moment when you, well, have hope that it’s exactly what you were looking for. The world is a cruel place, but if you persevere it may just surprise you.