Mary Strachan Scriver

Dec 5, 2021

2 min read


Burgwin, my boss at Multnomah County Animal Control in the ’70’s, was determined to find a way to break up the pattern of patrolling and answering complaints that wasn’t making things get better. So one day he decided we should “accentuate the positive.” Reward the good instead of ticketing the bad. He handed out five dollar bills to the officers with instructions to give one to whomever they found doing something good.

At the end of the day everyone returned with their five dollar bills. They simply didn’t see anyone doing something good.

“Imagine how different the world would be if ‘what a person is worth’ was actually measured by their generosity and care for others.” A tweet posted about 12/5.

This is a thought had by many and undoubtedly valid. The problem is technical: how do the generosity and worthiness of individuals become known now that we are so many, so distant from each other, and so various in our ideas of what is worth even some attention. St. Peter and his book have dissolved along with God and even Santa n longer knows who is naughty or nice.

We can admire categories, like the health workers who risk their lives in the attempt to save others. Social media and warm fuzzy newsrooms pick out individuals to praise and note on video. This helps, though it can be almost intimidating.

We can praise each other, especially children, telling them their record and reputation as helpful and cheerful in support of others. Those who teach managers to praise good work are on the right track.

But how can we construct a national index of gain in good will and positive acts in contrast to the Gross National Product which is based on money and doesn’t distinguish between the positive and the catastrophic. It must be sky high at the moment. I’m fuzzy from pain killers for sciatica, but I seem to remember some people actually working on the project of a Gross National Happiness scale. Anyone else remembering?