A former mentor and teacher of mine used to advise his students to eat a couple of frogs before opening the morning newspaper; the news would be easier to stomach that way.
Our news is filled with violence, scandal, propaganda and the like. One look at the front page, and it seems like we’re all going straight to hell Ã  la Iraq, Palestine and the countless other hotbeds of violence in the world.
That’s why it is so nice, once in a while, to see good Samaritans get their dues.
Last week, an inebriated and possibly mentally disturbed 26-year-old transient broke into CafÃ© La Vie downtown brandishing a pair of scissors and threatening his own life. Police blocked off Front Street fearing a violent confrontation, and after a nearly six-hour standoff subdued the man with a Taser gun.
On the surface, this incident looks like so many of the other violent news stories we hear about. The fallout is that many of the businesses nearby may have lost thousands of dollars while Front Street was blocked off, and the overtime that will have to be paid out by the police department will also come at a hefty price tag. But buried in all that mess was the charity of Yeyen Gunawan, the owner of CafÃ© La Vie.
immediately after the incident, Gunawan told reporters that she had forgiven the perpetrator, and that the restaurant would be donating 15 percent of its profits during the next week to the Santa Cruz chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Illness.
Instead of blaming the police and the criminal for negatively affecting her business’ bottom line, Gunawan willingly reached into her own pocket in an attempt to help address the root of the problem—in this case,
In a â€˜me-first’ age that rewards those who bring about frivolous lawsuits for the chance to gain a leg up, it is a breath of fresh air to see someone check their own self-pity at the door. Gunawan could have made herself out as the victim of a crime, but instead she saw the big picture, and realized that the real victim was the perpetrator himself.
The irony of the story—perhaps the karma—is that Gunawan’s charity could very well benefit her restaurant. Customers generally patronize businesses that are well-known for having fine customer service, and the favorable PR that La Vie is likely to receive because of Gunawan’s act may well give her business a boost.
But that is beside the point. Even if Gunawan had not actually donated any money (an act that may have been impossible for many less-successful businesses in Santa Cruz), the fact that she forgave the criminal and thought not of herself still represents a spirit that more of us ought to adopt. If people who felt as if they were wronged all took a moment to consider the circumstances that produced a crime, perhaps we could actually reduce the social ills that create so much crime.
Who knows, the world might even become a slightly more palatable place.