THE CAPACITY FOR GOODWILL is one of the defining features of being a morally decent human being. And no human is ever entirely beyond the need for goodwill. And it is simple and ever so poignant truth that goodwill can take quite simple forms. For instance, suppose that person Alpha is walking behind person Beta and sees that a pen has just fallen out of Beta’s pocket. Well, person Alpha performs an act of basic goodwill by picking up the pen and informing Beta of what had just happened. That simple act of goodwill probably takes no more than 60 seconds. Yet, the gesture means so much.
That is what I find so fascinating about basic acts of goodwill. They often require very little effort. Yet, such acts can mean so very much to the person for whom the act of goodwill was performed. Indeed, if my own experience is any indication, then performing a basic of goodwill is so very affirming to the person who so behaves. Indeed, it can be rightly said that such behavior indicates a very good thing about a person’s character. This is especially so if an individual lives in a morally stable and morally decent society. For in such a society, a person rarely—if ever—has to worry about staying alive. That can be taken as a given. Likewise, a person rarely has to worry about protecting the life of a family member.
But countless are the opportunities for basic goodwill. Indeed, there is no reason whatsoever to supposed that there will such a degree of advancement in this or that society that basic goodwill will be entirely irrelevant to society.
Interestingly, there is a profound respect in which the very foundation of basic goodwill is marvelous parental upbringing. For marvelous parental upbringing is not just about parents doing their job in raising their children. Rather, it is about parents tremendously appreciating and taking delight in the developmental progress of their children. I shall take to my grave the delight that my parents displayed when I wrote my first word and when I did my first case of simple arithmetic and the first instance of my tying my shoes. And so on. Their marvelous perceptivity of my progress was the key to my being perceptive with regard to the behavior of those around me. Likewise, the very fact that their simple gestures of goodwill towards me routinely meant so very much to me made it unequivocally clear to me that it is possible to make a positive difference in small ways.
I have never saved a life. Thus far, no such opportunity has ever presented itself. But I have had a wealth of experience in terms of witnessing the quite positive difference that simple acts of genuine goodwill can make. Moreover, I have numerous opportunities to engage in simple acts of goodwill; and routinely I have taken tremendous delight in so behaving. Indeed, it has turned out time and time again that such behavior has been a wonderful source of moral inspiration. Thus, basic goodwill on my part has been proven to be a moral gift one kind to the recipient and the gift of a moral mirror to me.
© 2016 Laurence Thomas