Many a wise person has said “either you’re part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem,” and choice is something everyone possesses. Attitude is another.

Before the pandemic, a shift occurred. “America First,” which many mistook for “nationalism,” was a rallying point that degenerated into name-calling and hatred, creating a ripple effect that ran through daily living.

With the ripple effect, the choice can be to create a positive ripple. Sometimes it starts with the answer, making the question less important. The answer, if you haven’t guessed, is one word. Yes.

Seeing “yes” in action form can be inspirational. When watching others modeling what they consider to be their best self, you want to join in to be part of something bigger than yourself. Without inspiration, there is a normal hesitation to hold back.

My inspiration is my wife, Martha. Watching her highlights how simple acts of kindness create ripples, and “I believe” ripples create waves, and waves create change.

Martha always says “yes” when humanity is involved.  She simply says, “I’ll be there in five minutes” when our friend Melvin calls. And Melvin rewards her. He is always the first to call her to congratulate her if he hears about something she’s done, or he’ll call to make sure she knows about a snowstorm. Remembering the Patriots’ sweatshirt we bought him for Christmas, he’ll ask her, “What does Reade think about Tom Brady coming out of retirement?”

Then there is MayLee. After taking her weekly to the animal shelter to visit Tiger, a cat taken away because she wasn’t able to care for it, they go shopping. Martha acts as a mother to this woman in her late 50s. MayLee loads the cart with “Debbie Cakes” as Martha warmly scolds her, “You don’t need two packages. Put one back, dear,” only to hear, “But I wanted to buy one for you, Martha.”

That’s the reward for true altruism; unconditional love — where and when, and from whom you least expect it.

“America First” resonates with many Americans, and I get it — family first, put the oxygen mask on yourself before tending to your child; it makes intrinsic sense. But it misses the greater point that we are all in this together and we need to remember we are only as strong as our weakest link.

When asked about her greatest “aha” moment, a friend told us it was finishing her first 10-mile training run in Army boot camp. She went to rest on a rock, proud of what she had accomplished, ready to recover as she was spent. The sergeant approached saying she needed to go back and help the others still struggling to finish; her run was not complete, he told her, until all soldiers were back and able to recover on the big rock she now sat on. Full backpack, she headed into the desert to find her soldiers, realizing perhaps someday she would need them to come back for her.

Last week the Portland Press Herald shared a story about Josh Ross’s incredible half-court shot that not only was a buzzer-beater breaking a 58-58 tie, but brought down the house as the crowd roared.

After being mobbed by his teammates, the opposing team came over and joined in celebration.

Josh, 16, is a high-school junior and plays on Thornton’s “Unified” team. He was born with Down syndrome. He loves basketball and his specialty is the 3-point shot, which he practices for hours on end.

On this day, he dribbled to half-court and then abruptly turned around. His teammate, thinking Josh was confused, yelled “Turn around, Josh, you’re going the wrong way!” But Josh wasn’t going the wrong way; he just had his back to his own basket.

He shuffled his feet for a moment and then threw a backward shot over his own head that would swish through the basket as the crowd, watching in disbelief, then went crazy. Josh looked over at incredulous teammates, then strutted back to the sidelines, his body language saying, “Done this, been here before.”

Then the widest grin you’ve ever seen. A collective grin that helps us understand we all want the best for humanity, and that whoever came up with the idea of a “unified team” should get the “high five” award, as it promotes everything that is great about sports — teamwork, physical activity, and sportsmanship.

The unified team has created brotherly bonds between a student with a developmental disability and a student without a disability. In this case, Mac Lowe, a junior who plays on the Thornton High School team, who describes his teammate as “a great kid, always nice to everyone.” Mac is someone I want on my team.

Mac, if you ever need a job, this is the only thing on your resume I care about. You’re hired. I want Josh, too.

*****

“The ideals which lighted my way, and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Kindness, Beauty, and Truth.” — Albert Einstein, physicist, Nobel laureate (1879-1955)

Reade Brower is the owner of these newspapers.