This I Believe

Merwin, Don


  • Don Merwin describes an incident in his life in which many members of his neighborhood gave blood after a terrible accident, and he explains how this event keeps him from despair and gives him confidence in the eventual triumph of peace and human kindness.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. It’s a good rule to ask no man to do that which you would not do yourself. Donald J. Merwin is a member of the staff of this program who assigned himself the task of putting his beliefs into words before urging and helping other to do the same. Here is the result.
A few months ago, the regular Wednesday evening round of television programs was interrupted by a special bulletin telling of a serious accident on the Long Island Railroad. The excited account of this frightful wreck, which left a tight, empty feeling in the stomachs of our living room full of Long Island commuters, was followed by a terse appeal for blood donors. Fifteen minutes later, as I arrived with my brother at the local named in the appeal for blood, I saw a sight which I sincerely hope I can keep with me all my life. Hundreds of my neighbors jammed the reception room of the blood collection center and were lined up for a city block outside. Every one of them had been sitting quietly in his home,
laughing at the antics of a Broadway comic, or following the thrill-packed plot of an ancient Western, when a few quiet words of an announcer had drawn them out into the November night to an address flashed across the screen. There they stood, anxiously peering ahead to see how long it would be until they could give some of themselves to help the friends and strangers in that twisted and charred wreckage which they had not even seen.
For many it meant standing on line in the crowded hospital corridors until just before dawn, yet few turned away and went home until they had given blood. Here was one of those rare chances to do something, to give something real and precious, to show that they did care what happened to their fellow man.
And no one in that crowd of neighbors—of all races, of all religions, of all political convictions and social strata—was willing to let that chance go by.
My belief in people was not born in this experience. That people are basically good is the assumption behind all that my parents taught me, behind all that I can accept in my religion, behind everything which has become a part of me in my years of schooling. The scene at the hospital only dramatized what had long been intellectual conviction. If you believe, as I do, that the ills of this sick, tired world don’t originate in the basic instincts of human nature, then the only place to look for them is in the rules and regulations by which people usually act.
Somehow the essential goodness isn’t allowed to show itself often enough, and the result is the war, poverty, hatred, and prejudice which so often tempt me to believe that sin and evil are man’s natural condition. But deep down I can never resign myself to that belief. There wouldn’t be much sense in anything I tried to do if that were true.
That’s why I want to carry with me wherever I go the picture of hundreds of people grasping desperately at a chance to help. I want to remember it every time I doubt for a minute that we can build a better world: a world where peace is so permanent that children can’t understand what their teachers are talking about when they try to explain how men used to fight each other; where poverty is remembered only as an ancient evil,
the way slavery is remembered today; where people are no more discriminated against for the color of their skin than for the color of their hair. I believe that we can build such a world and that if we only try hard enough and have enough confidence, we will find the set of rules that will give people a chance to be good to each other all the time, instead of only when an unusual tragedy breaks the cold routine.
That was a young New Yorker named Don Merwin, who is just venturing into this strange business of radio as a career. Graduate of Williams College, holder of a master’s degree in American literature from Sarah Lawrence College, at the age of 23 he has already learned, we’d say, how to weigh human values.