Because there are no sports on television right now, my favourite movie, Field of Dreams, has been getting a lot of airtime. Near the end of the film, the main character meets his father as a young man and comments on his appearance, saying, “My God, I only saw him years later when he was worn down by life.”
When I first saw Field of Dreams in 1989, I wondered if I too would become hardened as life wore on.
Now, I’m not the baseball player I was 31 years ago. I have to stretch very well if I don’t want to pull a hamstring sprinting around the bases, and I don’t have the same jump in my step in the outfield.
But life has certainly not worn me down. In fact, even though I’ve made my share of mistakes, I’m more confident and an even happier person.
I’ve always been an idealist and I’ve always sought truth. As I’ve grown, I’ve found that truth has converged with my ideals. There are some bad people in the world and no one is perfect, but overall people are very good. The more encouraging and positive we are with one another, the more our amazing potential shines.
In the world of my youth, we were taught to fear communists and that only they committed crimes against humanity. We were told that more weapons would make us safe. We were also far too tolerant of racism, sexism and homophobia.
None of these ideas sat right with me and I became vocal in my opposition, though my views were not always popular.
Looking back, I see the reasonableness of my opinions. The military manoeuvres of the Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher era nearly brought us to the brink of destruction, as declassified records have recently revealed.
The Cold War ended not because of intimidation, but because people just like me on the other side of the Iron Curtain believed in human freedom and potential.
The end of the Cold War has also allowed us to question the crimes against humanity committed by Western countries and Western allies without the fear of being called communists. We’ve seen the rise of the International Criminal Court and though its progress is slow, there is progress.
We have proven that the words of Martin Luther King Jr. are indeed true: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
I’m very proud of the progress the world has made in my lifetime, and I’m proud and happy to have been a part of it.
But we still have such a long way to go. Income inequality has become much worse during my lifetime. And we’ve ignored the climate crisis for so long that many scientists tell us that we must take drastic action now in order to avert disaster.
History has shown that it’s not those who bully others into submission who will be celebrated generations later. In fact, as we become aware of the tactics of those who must be in control at all costs, we learn to limit their power and capacity to destroy what’s truly sacred.
Doing good is not only vital to humanity and to the planet, it’s one of the key ingredients to living a happy and fulfilling life.
The truth is that life doesn’t have to beat us down. We choose how we’re going to respond to the challenges life brings our way.
If we remain true to our ideals, our bodies may age but our spirits will remain forever young.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.