Board notes: Individual actions speak louder than words

By Mark Laskow, Chair
Carnegie Hero Fund Commission

“As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.” —Andrew Carnegie

One hardly knows where to begin … 2020 is off to quite a start!

Americans and our society are under tremendous and very real medical, economic, and social pressures.

COVID-19 is real, the winter’s economic nosedive was real, and the appalling deaths of several Black citizens at the hands of a few police officers (or wannabe officers) were all too real.

I also believe, however, that the angst and stress we all feel has been greatly aggravated by words. Lots of words. So many words.

We are bombarded with words from commentators, activists of all stripes, and many others genuinely trying to help.

Some of these voices are trying explain what is happening, some are trying to calm us, and others are trying to manipulate us and use one crisis or another to their own advantage.

Fair enough — that’s life in a free society.

But where can we look for an anchor in the midst of these real problems and this blizzard of words?

Look, I am 1,000% behind free speech. But in this swirl, it might be useful to remember that you have another right — the right to just stop listening for a bit.

Make your soul quiet and think about something other than words. Think about deeds.

Think about the healthcare workers who have put so much at risk in the fight against COVID-19.

Think about the generosity of so many people who have personally helped businesses and workers shut down by the disease.

Think about those, including most police, who have stepped forward to protect Black lives.

Even if we individually have not been on the receiving end of these kind acts, they nevertheless make our whole society a much better place for each of us.

Good deeds have a way of doing that.

Over the years I have written often of how powerfully the deeds of Carnegie heroes illuminate and prove the fundamental bond that links us together as a nation.

The current political fashion is to deconstruct the American people into sub-groups for the advancement of “intersectional” politics.

That is a risk for America, as we, almost uniquely among nations, do not share a common ethnicity, or even the myth of a common ethnicity.

Remember, the vast majority of our Carnegie heroes risked life and limb to save strangers, in many cases strangers not a member of their own “intersectional” subgroup of humanity.

The Carnegie heroes acted not because they felt separate from the victims in peril, but because they felt joined to them by a common bond of humanity.

“In these uncertain times,” amid the whirlwind of conflicting words, you might find calm in a moment’s reflection on the deeds of these heroic men and women.

You might create a little extra calm for yourself and others if you undertook a deed or two of your own.

Wear a mask where it will help others.

Offer a kind word to a store clerk who must wear a mask all day for you.

Volunteer at a food bank, or make a donation.

In your everyday business, treat every individual you meet as your equal before God.

Then repeat as necessary.