Remona Aly
Friday 30 December 2016 The Guardian

Hopeful thinking: keeping the faith in everyday lifesavers

We did it. We got through the year from hell. Humankind collectively stubbed its toe and survived while Regrexit was out-idioted by Trumpageddon, hate crime and disillusionment spread like a virus – as did an actual virus – and the great artists who held the world together left us falling apart at the seams. Even Toblerone shafted us.

The mood seems dismal everywhere I turn. Yet as the 2,770-something-year-old Arwen assures us in The Lord of the Rings – there is still hope. She should know, she’s been around a bit.

Hope isn’t singular. It’s nuanced, it multiplies, it’s plural. While some of my hopes in our alleged leaders shrivel, it’s the evolving hopes in everyday people that keep me going strong.

There’s a little place in London I visited recently called Postman’s Park which sits quietly near the touristy bustle of St Paul’s cathedral. It houses a humble wooden structure that is home to plaque after plaque recording ordinary people who risked their lives to help others – often strangers.

People like Alice Ayres, the daughter of a labourer, who died saving three children from a burning house; or 12-year-old David Selves, who tried to save a boy from drowning but sank with him “clasped in his arms”; and 61-year-old Daniel Pemberton who pushed his friend out of the way of an oncoming train but couldn’t save himself. These memorials to extraordinary individuals are well over a century old, but we probably walk past such heroes every day.

I know some people won’t even give up their train seat, let alone their lives. But then, there are those who would do both. Not that we need that level of sacrifice. All we really need are the everyday acts that glue us to each other, that keep us looking out for each other. There are busloads of people who actually give a flying monkey’s about someone like me, someone like you, who’d do that for someone they’ll never meet.

They are the ones who don’t get any plaques; who don’t make it to social media. Like the guy who showed solidarity with a young woman who was yelled at for looking “foreign”. Like the office girl on a lunch break who saw an elderly lady eating on her own and left her colleagues to join her. Like the couple who came to my rescue in a winter blizzard to dig the car out of a rut then disappeared into the night quicker than you can say “snow angels”. All these people who do the greatest acts of goodness, since no good act is small, are the people I call life-savers.

So, despite 2016 being the year we’d like to frantically Tippex out, I still believe in people – how incredible we humans are and how awesome we can be. For every bad story we hear, there are a hundred good ones we don’t. For every grade 1 A-hole who attacks anyone a bit different, there are thousands of fine, first-class people ready to protect them.

It’s that belief that gives me not just a single hope, but many hopes. They are the multiple antidotes to my despondency. The goodness of everyday people is what I’ll carry forward, plus the vain reassurance that nothing could possibly be worse than 2016 (touch wood as they say, a forest preferably).

2016 is dead. Long live 2017. My hopes have never been so high.

This article originally appeared in the Hopeful Thinking series in The Guardian on 30th December 2016. To view it click here.