As a former English teacher, books are a constant source of influence in my life. I distinctly remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank in the sixth grade. I even remember wondering if it were possible I had been Anne Frank in a former life; such was my overactive imagination and the power of her story. It’s been a long time since I read the book and yet there is one line that to this day, resonates in my soul: “Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.” It is a line that has echoed in my head these twenty years because for a long time, I wondered if that were really true.
The same year I read The Diary of Anne Frank was the same year somebody on a bus yelled a crude racial slur at me as I walked by. I was confused, embarrassed, angry. Everybody had heard that ugly word lashed out at me. Growing up in a relatively ethnic neighborhood in New York before moving to Florida, I’d never really thought of myself as anything other than a typical girl. The insult cut deep and, despite having just read about the cruelties suffered by Anne and her family, I found the incident impossible to forget. I carried it with me, day in and day out, wondering if that was what everybody thought when they looked at me. That personal experience might have been the first crack in my faith in man’s goodness. More and more, I took notice of the hatred in the world and my faith crumbled. I carried this debris for years, until I became a mother and started laying down a new foundation.
Through my children I rediscovered man’s goodness. As a parent, some of my favorite moments are when I can observe my daughter and my son undetected. I watch them as they run around and flap their arms, as they hum a song or laugh out loud, as they make funny faces and hold hands, or as they stare at the moon and point to the stars. When I see them, I am reminded that wherever we are, whomever we have become, this is the goodness we started out with. Hatred—that is taught, practiced, carried out, but goodness is innate. It is why children smile, hold hands, and hug. And it is why, despite the worst this world could offer her, a young girl spoke a beautiful truth when she wrote, “Despite everything…people are really good at heart.” This I believe.