A friend chided me gently at lunch the other day for being naïve at my advanced age, and tending to believe the best of people. At first, I was hurt, then I tried to decide if she might be trying in her kindly way, to help me. A friend’s eye is a good mirror, they say, and she’s a most beloved friend.
But then, on the way home, it occurred to me that perhaps I’m okay with being a bit naïve. Not as much as when I trusted my heart to the wrong man, or allowed someone else to care for my money – yes I was that dumb – but maybe just enough to not get cynical. I expect cynical people never get taken to the cleaners, or hurt to the heart, or made a fool of. But maybe they also don’t get to believe in justice, or self-sacrifice for a cause, or a number of other ideals I hold dear. Maybe they don’t get to love madly, deeply, truly, or fight for seemingly hopeless causes, that sometimes turn out not to be hopeless afterall.
Nelson Mandela, having spent 27 years unjustly imprisoned, without losing his capacity for goodness, compassion and decency, lived to help spearhead his seemingly powerless fellow countrymen into a negotiated peace with the all-powerful and terminally arrogant British Empire. When asked how it happened, he explained the success in this gentle way:
“Historical enemies succeeded in negotiating peaceful transition from Apartheid to democracy exactly because we were prepared to accept the inherent capacity for goodness in each other.”
How naïve do you have to be to imagine something like that?
© Cathy Cash Spellman/The Wild Harp & Co. Inc 2011