Cook: Good church people

Cook: Good church people

September 11th, 2013 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

Doyle Fairchild is the opposite of terrorism.

"I try to help anybody I can," he said over the phone Monday.

Fairchild is 79, a widower, and on the sunset end of a good, long life defined by compassion and callouses.

"I've always worked since I was 12. Me and my dad went into Mr. Bolton's barber shop in Red Bank. A guy came in and wanted a shine ... my dad looked over at me and said: this boy will shine your shoes. I shined shoes there for three years," Fairchild remembers.

Someone ought to sing a country song about his life -- good family and fingernail dirt, church attendance and canned vegetables -- and sing it today, on the 12th anniversary of 9/11. Belt it loud, like George Jones would.

Because the coming world and the next 100 years will demand we not only reject the dead-end, myopic philosophy of terrorism and violence but embrace the big humanity of Doyle Fairchild and those like him.

"If you take care of others, the good Lord will take care of you," he said.

It sounds front-porch simple, but this Fairchildian ethic actually reflects a growing body of science that gets to the (might we say bleeding?) heart of what it means to be human: we are built, created, engineered toward empathy and compassion more so than competition and violence.

"Though economists have long argued the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that, at our core, both animals and human beings have ... a 'compassionate instinct,'" wroteEmma Seppala in a recent journal for the Association for Psychological Science. "Research... showed that even rats are driven to empathize with another suffering rat and to go out of their way to help it out of its quandary."

Rats do it. Birds and bees do it. Humans do too. Why? Because nature is far more empathetic than blood-red in tooth and claw; humanity far more bound together than all men as isolated islands.

What's that you say about survival of the fittest? Pshaw. In his "Descent of Man," Darwin only makes two references to that well-known phrase.

But he mentions love nearly 100 times.

"I love to help people," said Fairchild.

Researchers have been eyeing the hormone oxytocin as a chemical behind the feel-good-feeling we get when we're compassionate and generous.

"A group of UCLA researchers is studying the link between oxytocin and the emotion they call 'love of humanity,' wondering if the hormone might be the actual milk of human kindness," wrote Marc Ian Barasch in "Field Notes on the Compassionate Life."

Hormones? Milk of human kindness? No politician is going to talk like that, at least not these days. It seems we are tethered to some hamster wheel foreign policy, where the only ideas are the old, worn ones.

Case Study 1,372: bombing Syria could help the one group we've been trying to defeat for years.

Al Qaida.

"American and allied cruise missiles would be degrading the capability of the regime's military units to the benefit of the al-Qaida-linked militants fighting Assad -- the same militants whom U.S. drones are attacking regularly in places such as Yemen," wrote Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, in the Washington Post.

Nuts. Madness. Bang-your-head-against-the-wall-insane. Makes me want to megaphone Washington the old, cratchety Jack Nicholson line: go sell crazy someplace else. We're all stocked up here.

So forget crazy. Let's go back to Fairchild, whose brother is former Board of Education member Everett Fairchild. I first met him last year, during his Thursday outings: Each week, he takes vegetables and homemade salsas and canned jellies to four or five locations around town. The courthouse. Siskin. The Creative Discovery Museum. His doctor's office.

He sells most, but gives some away, too, if folks don't have enough money.

Last week, he called to brag on his friends at Swafford Farms up on Summer City Road in Pikeville, Tenn. They've got acres and acres of tomatoes, and Fairchild dropped by to see if he could pick some spares to give away. Of course, they told him. Be our guest.

"Ten boxes of red tomatoes," Fairchild said.

Fairchild took them down to the Community Kitchen, and called to see if I would print something kind about Swafford Farms.

"They're good church people and they do everything they can to help everybody," Fairchild said of the Swaffords.

Just like you, Mr. Fairchild.

And just like so many others, too. After all, it's in our nature.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP