During the season in which we celebrate good will toward our fellow man, we recently reported some troubling news: 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 you feel like the majority of people are trying to take advantage of you. It’s a stressful, anxious way to live your life.
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. Here at the Clarion, we occasionally get letters to the editor thanking someone for returning a wallet or set of keys. We know that most people engaged in public service and volunteerism here have good intentions, and we are happy to help.
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 commonsense steps we should be taking whether we trust our fellow man or not.
There are other ways to build trust in our community. The main one is 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.
That’s great news, because the central Peninsula is chock full of opportunities to get involved, and as winter sets in, now is a great time to make a point of getting out of the house and meeting new people. We can’t make any promises, but there’s a good chance that interacting with more of our community in a positive way may restore at least a little bit of your trust in your fellow human beings.