Among the plethora of information that is thrown at our faces each morning on the front pages of our newspapers, web-browser homepages, or any other media outlets, a large part of it is often negative and depressing.
Day after day, reading about incessant violence and torture across the world, a frighteningly unpredictable American economy, and the lack of progress made by disputing local and global politicians, just to name a few, can leave one feeling hopeless regarding the goodness of humanity.
We live in a world where information can be gathered easily at our fingertips, which has been described as both a blessing and a curse. And I have grown to notice how easy it is to become lost and enveloped within the many distressing and displeasing headlines.
And though negative, scary, and depressing information is of the utmost importance, it also remains important to focus on the good that takes place around us every day. In Pittsburgh, there are many unique initiatives that aim to promote social, economic, and racial justice, just like the Three Rivers Community Foundation.
Dream Cream Ice Cream parlor, located on Liberty Avenue in Downtown Pittsburgh, for example, is your normal independent ice cream shop, but with a special twist.
Each month, founders Thomas Jamison and Alecia Shipman, “pick individuals and organizations to become dreamers…they get the ability to pick a [custom] flavor of ice cream and use that flavor as a fundraiser for the entire month. During that month, 25% of the sales from that flavor go directly towards funding whatever their dream is.”
Dream Cream Ice Cream takes a unique approach by providing financial support to individuals who could potentially create positive change in a Pittsburgh community.
Similarly, Conflict Kitchen, located at the Schenley Plaza in Oakland (previously located in East Liberty), is an unconventional eating establishment motivated by something much deeper than profit.
The restaurant, “serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict…[It] rotates identities every few months in relation to current geopolitical events.”
According to the job description on the restaurant’s official website, “employees need to be capable of both working in the kitchen as well as interacting with our customers on topics related to our focus country in the sales window and at our dinners…We expect our employees to be expert conversationalists, deeply versed in the culture and politics within our focus country.”
It is interesting to note that the founders and management behind this establishment stress the importance of mere conversation alongside the consumption of their product; an unfamiliar cuisine.
Both Dream Cream Ice Cream and Conflict Kitchen have chosen to use food, one of the most basic human necessities, to promote justice in their own ways. Their missions are different, but their motivations are touchingly similar: to unify members of our community and encourage them to make a positive difference.
So, what is the point I’m trying to make? It is actually a simple one: don’t let the overwhelming number of negative stories in the media tarnish your outlook on humanity.
Like I said before, however, it is fundamental for everyone to care about and become knowledgeable of what is happening around the world, no matter how sad, terrifying, or depressing those stories may be.
Yet, there are so many good things happening around us every day on both local and global scales that promote social justice. And maybe the key to maintaining our faith in humanity is that we just need to look a little bit harder to find them.
I will leave you with a quote by novelist Kurt Vonnegut:
“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”