ANTIDOTES TO CYNICISM

In their book Some Do Care: Contemporary Lives of Moral Commitment (New York: The Free Press, 1992), developmental psychologists Ann Colby and William Damon explore the contribution made by Americans who could be identified as "moral exemplars"—people who were willing to expend great effort to help others, even under circumstances that made their own lives uncomfortable or even put them in danger. To make their selections, the authors asked a panel of 22 nominators to make recommendations based on these criteria, and out of 84 choices, 23 took part in the study.

The people chosen by the panel weren't famous in the usual media sense of fame, but were individuals working on the frontlines to alleviate poverty, racism, violence, and other ills. As the study progressed, Colby and Damon noted that while these people make enormous material sacrifices, their lives are not dreary and joyless. Instead, "It is a picture of striking joy, great certainty, and unremitting faith; one that results in both high standards for the self and charity toward others" (p. 5).

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TOUCHING ONE LIFE AT A TIME
January 10, 2005
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