05/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Small Good News: Getting Better One Story at a Time

Big bad news is easy to find. Pick your category: My favorites at the moment range from the bailed-out banks that complain about the very payback terms they agreed to when they were hemorrhaging, to a thoroughbred horse breeder arrested for allegedly cutting his overhead by letting dozens of animals slowly starve. We face wholesale cuts in art funding, health insurance giants who simultaneously increase rates and decrease coverage, and a stock market whose recent growth is either the new pulse of recovery or a death rattle, depending on whom you ask. The list goes on and on in any and every direction.

It's enough to keep us in bed with the covers pulled over our heads, except that we need to find work, keep work, work harder, go into business for ourselves because whatever our work was, it isn't, anymore.

We have no choice but to cope, because the remedy, officials and experts tell us, will take weeks or months or years and require the combined efforts of the nation's best and brightest.

I have begun to wonder what the rest of us are supposed to do in the meantime, beyond trying to keep our heads above water and eating too much ice cream straight out of the carton. What can we find in daily life to sustain us? The bumper-sticker sentiments of the 1990s aren't substantial enough to hack it in a world of foreclosure seminars and squatters, of millions of uninsured and unemployed, of second-generation victory gardens and Saks starting to sell at seventy percent off weeks before the traditional holiday sale season. "Have a nice day!" was the knee-jerk blessing we tossed off when most of our days were just that, when having a nice day wasn't much of a reach. Harsher times call for something more.

I have begun to look for small good news -- not happy-face cheer but optimism infused with substance. It is not so hard to find. I stumbled onto two examples in a single week, one about a Starbucks team's selling attitude, another about a restaurant whose generosity inspired its loyal customers. I assume there are similar stories all over the place, because wake-me-when-it's-over is not our national personality profile. So, starting today, the story of recovery not from the top down but from the bottom up -- a recovery that addresses spirit as well as bank balance.

We may not have access to whomever it is who defines dental insurance as covering only cavities, or decides to charge already-strapped credit-card customers an extra percentage if there's a month where they can't pay their balance in full; lucky for them, probably, that we don't. But we can bolster each other with news that takes the edge off the headlines.

Don't get the wrong idea: I am a skeptic and often a cynic, and I tend to wince at the generically upbeat. I have never used a smiley-face emoticon in my life, and the most common question I ask, I'm told, is "How do you know that?" I am not interested in a life philosophy that boils down to kiss-your-puppy-more-often, and neither, I imagine, are you.

A shared, one-on-one recovery strategy - a national network of resilience - is much more to my liking. Send us your stories. The chronicle of our stimulus plan starts here.


Difficult times have been known to bring communities together as people lean on one another for support. In this recession, there's no shortage of communities around the country that have rallied around a struggling neighbor, reached out a helping hand to those around them, or donated free dry cleaning to the job-seeking and unemployed. We know there are more stories like these and HuffPost wants to highlight them. If you read or hear about an act of kindness in your community, email us the story at

These vignettes are a much needed counterpoint to the doom and gloom surrounding the economy; let's help change the conversation -- we can't do it without you.

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