There is no doubt this is a really weird and stressful phase in the world. The casualty numbers continue to skyrocket from Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami and there is the ongoing and lingering fears linked to the devastated nuclear power plants and the potential radiation fall out affect. It also appears that the US is on the brink of entering a third war in Libya, as it joined allied forces in bombing raids in the country the past few days. And this is all happening just as we’ve been finally seeing signs of real economic progress after experiencing the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Time will tell if rising oil prices combined with economic disruption in Japan will be enough to slow or stall the progress, but I’m hopeful there is enough momentum now that the US economy will be able to push ahead. We’ll see.

So its with this sobering and potentially depressing backdrop of events that I present three small reasons to hope for a better tomorrow and future. Even if that future is tomorrow. Its too easy to hear the onslaught of negative news and potential dangers facing us all – and to feel overwhelmed. Sometimes the good in our world is too easily overlooked for taken for granted. But I’ve found three recent events that brightened my day, made me smile and made me a little more hopeful for the future.

1) Secret Millionaire & Bill Gates

I declared on my Facebook page tonight that my new favorite TV show is Secret Millionaire. For those who haven’t seen the show yet, the premise is pretty basic. It’s a reality show and it features real millionaires – who leave the comforts of their lives to travel to a location with the goal of finding worthy charities/non-profits to give away tens of thousands of dollars. The millionaires go under cover in their quest – they stay in very modest/poor accommodations in depressed areas of towns (Gary, Indiana and Detroit were the two most recent). They then set out to find and volunteer for local charities who are working to improve their cities.

From the moment I first started watching the show I was hooked. And I didn’t even see the first 45 minutes of the first episode. But it’s extremely moving (and inspiring) to see how hard so many people are working to simply try to improve the lives of their neighborhoods and cities – and how appreciative they are when they are given thousands of dollars by these millionaires at the end of the. Yes, of course the show is contrived because it is entertainment, but the tears of joy are real, and it’s also very clear that the millionaires featured thus far have been truly touched by their experiences.

What I like most about the show is how it is providing a showcase and platform for these very worthy non profit organizations and those who work so hard to build and maintain them. Too often I feel that in our consumer-crazy and celebrity worshipping society non profits are almost looked down upon by many. Sadly, I think a large percent of America’s middle and upper class probably have little to no exposure to non profits, so they have no idea how many lives are touched. But there are extremely important organizations that serve as a critical safety net in our society – so again it’s great to see so many featured on national tv.

And of course, it’s also great to see those who have the means with their wealth share money and resources with those who need it so desperately. I hope it serves as an example for many others who have the financial means to help others to do just that.

Speaking of leading by example, how about Bill Gates? Not only has he built the largest philanthropic organization in human history and literally impacted and helped tens of millions (yes MILLIONS) of lives, he’s also stepping up and calling out fellow billionaires and businesses and encouraging them to donate more of their wealth to those who need it and to get involved in worthy causes. To me, this is real leadership. It’s really amazing to consider the impact this one man has had in our world today. Life as we know it – in so many ways – would simply be vastly different. But that’s another topic for another blog post. Suffice to say that Gates’ prodding will no doubt shake loose literally billions of additional dollars that will be used for worthy causes. And that gives me hope.

#2 Anthony Robles

Unless you are a serious sports fan and hard core ESPN Sports Center viewer (like me), you probably have no idea who Anthony Robles is. And I have to admit, I wouldn’t know him if I simply heard his name either. But its a name worth learning.

Anthony was born July 20, 1988 – with only one leg. And yesterday he won the NCAA wrestling championship for his weight class, by defeating the previous champion 7-1.  How awesome is it that this young man has achieved such greatness in such a grueling sport – with such an obvious disability. This isn’t Anthony’s first brush with success (or championships) though. In high school, he twice won the Arizona state wrestling title, compiling a staggering 129-15 record. According to his official biography on the Arizona State University athletic website, his favorite hobby is paint balling. One leg? Who cares! He doesn’t let anything get in the way of his goals, dreams and ambitions. Kudos to Anthony for providing such inspiration!

#3 Stone Kaufer

Ah yes, I had to make this personal somehow, right? Well in comparison to the achievements above, what I’m going to share about Stone will obviously pale in overall impact. But the significance is still very real – and it provided me with one of many such moments – that continue to give me hope for his continued development and future positive impact and contributions to our world.

While Renee was out for a run yesterday, I was keeping and eye on the boys while catching up on some work on the laptop in our kitchen. Stone had been playing in the backyard a lot – enjoying the sunny, mild day with our puppy Brodie. There had been lots of running and chasing – good times all around. At one point, he ran through the house and into the bathroom and was rummaging beneath the sink for a roll of toilet paper. At first I didn’t want him to have it, because he’s been on a kick lately where he’s been emptying nearly full rolls of toilet paper into the toilets. Not only does this naturally clog the toilets, it also wastes a ton of TP. So I told Stone to put the TP back – but he was very insistent on having it and leaving the bathroom with it. I finally gave in, thinking to myself, “what’s the worst thing that could happen with toilet paper?”

I went back to work on the laptop on the counter and kept an eye on Stone as he went back into the backyard with the roll. Then I saw him rip off a big piece of TP, walk out to the lawn, and try to pick up one of Brodie’s fresh poops. He was trying to keep the lawn clean! I smiled and ran out to help him (before he made a big poopy mess). I thanked him for helping clean up and finished the task myself. In the meantime, Brodie got ahold of the big roll of TP, and soon we had hundreds of pieces of chewed up paper scattered across the lawn.

This wasn’t the first time that Stone has tried to clean up after Brodie. While we were working on potty training Brodie, we often had to pick up his poop in the living room (that was his preferred dumping spot). One morning, I noticed Stone grabbing a roll of paper towels and going into the living room. There he scooped up the poop and took it to the toilet – where he promptly flushed it away.

I think it’s great that he wants to help and is taking the initiative on his own to find ways like this where he can pitch in. I mean, how many kids actually volunteer for potty patrol?

And with this as yet another small step in his continued development, I found reason number three for hope this weekend.

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