Restoring trust as simple as getting involved with others

During the season in which we celebrate good will toward all, some troubling news has been reported: Americans don’t trust each other.

That’s the conclusion of an Associated Press-GfK poll conducted last month. Among the poll’s findings, only about one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted — down from about half who felt that way when the question was first posed in 1972. According to the AP report, about two-thirds of Americans say “you can’t be too careful” when dealing with other people.

It’s a sad state of affairs, when most people feel like most other people are trying to take advantage of them. That’s a stressful, anxious way to live.

Perhaps we’re being naive, but here on the Kenai Peninsula, we like to think things are a little different. We’re still willing to stop and help a stranded motorist on the side of the road, return a lost wallet, bring a meal to a sick neighbor. At the Homer News, there’s not a week that goes by we don’t receive a letter from someone grateful for the good deeds of others — the letters appearing in this week’s paper are good examples.

Certainly, there’s a reasonable amount of caution necessary in this day and age. If it sounds like a scam, it probably is. Children should still be taught to stay away from strangers. Don’t share too much personal information online. Lock your car doors and your home. These are all common sense steps we should be taking whether we trust our fellow humans or not.

While being careful, we still can build trust in our community. The primary way is for residents to get involved. The AP cites the work of Robert Putnam, who noted that the decline in trust has coincided with the growing number of people who stay home and watch TV instead of getting out and socializing, whether it be in a bowling league, a fraternal or service organization, or participating in other community meetings and events. Involvement also is the key to making the place you call home a better place for everyone to live. (Please see Jan O’Meara’s Point of View piece on page 6.)

That’s great news, because Homer and the entire Kenai Peninsula are full of opportunities to get involved and make a difference. As winter settles in, now is a great time to make a point of getting out of the house, meeting new people and doing just a little more than thinking about all the good deeds we could be doing. 

There’s one good deed that needs several helping hands immediately: Share the Spirit is experiencing a shortfall in donations this year, according to Shari Daugherty, the program’s basket co-chair.

“We need to get the word out that anybody and everybody can help simply by taking a tag off the ‘gift trees,’ and buying a gift for a needy child or by making a monetary donation,” said Daugherty. 

The gift trees are available through Friday at Alaska USA Federal Credit Union, First National Bank Anchorage, Kachemak Gear Shed, Homer Bookstore, Timeless Toys, Total Office, Ulmer’s and Wells Fargo.For more information, call the Share the Spirit information line, 235-7466.

We won’t make any promises, but if you’re feeling a little low on trust and good cheer, there’s an excellent chance that helping a worthwhile cause — like Share the Spirit — could make the season brighter for you and others.

And you can’t beat that as a great Christmas gift.