How a Ball of Yarn Restored my Faith in Humanity

I spend too much time online. I fully recognize this.

But also, there’s not much I can do about it. I am an author. A business owner. A public speaker. Being on social media kind of comes with the territory.

I am so thankful for what social media has done to enhance my career and connect me with like-minded people who, inexplicably, want to hear what I have to say. That said, social media has also taken as much as it has given.

There is so much senseless hate online and in the real world. I could write an entire dissertation on the topic, but I know you don’t need me to.

I think I’ve gotten pretty good at tuning it out as the years have done by. I don’t tend to take it personally anymore, which makes a big difference. But although I don’t internalize all that hate and cruelty anymore, I find myself challenged not to externalize and extrapolateit.

Between the way we conduct ourselves in online spaces, and how we so easily allow cruelty, neglect, and abuse in the real world by either actively participating in it or turning a blind eye to it, it’s easy to see humanity in a very unfavorable light. If I’m not careful, I find myself having some pretty dark and curmudgeonly views toward humanity as a whole. We are useless, cruel, and downright evil, I think occasionally. It’s true—humanity is, in its very nature, utterly depraved.

To combat this, I try my best to deliberately seek what is good and beautiful about humanity. I make a point of looking for the helpers, as our dear Mister Rogers told us when we were children. Although orienting myself toward the good doesn’t erase the bad, it at least prevents me from becoming completely jaded and hopeless.

The other day, while scrolling Instagram, I came across one of the most touching and lighthearted examples of human goodness I think I’ve ever seen.

A woman was sitting on an airplane, crocheting, when her ball of yarn dropped to the floor. To her horror, it rolled dozens of yards to the front of the plane, unwinding as it rolled. What was left was a line of yarn that extended from the woman’s seat to nearly the cockpit.

The Seatbelt signs were on, which meant that neither she nor any of the other passengers could get up to retrieve the errant ball of yarn. It looked like the woman was going to have to pause her crocheting until the pilot turned off the Seatbelt sign.

But then, the passenger next to whom the ball had stopped rolling reached into the aisle and picked it up. He gently spooled one twist of the yarn around the ball, then passed it to the passenger behind him. That passenger wound the yarn one turn, then passed it to the next passenger. I watched in awe as someone from each aisle took their turn re-spooling the yarn and passing it back toward its owner. By the time the ball had come in close enough proximity that the passengers’ faces could be seen in the video, I saw genuine mirth and glee. People were laughing as they passed the ball of yarn to one another, often having a brief exchange of a few kind words as the yarn changed hands.

With one final pass, the re-spooned ball of yarn was handed back to its owner.

It’s sad to say, but we see so few of these types of humanity magic out in the real world. We certainly don’t see it much in online spaces. We are, at our worst, selfish, cruel, intolerant, and unjust. At our middlest, we are aloof, unaware of others—generally so lost in our inner world that we can’t spare a glance at those around us who need our help.

But at our best, we are fundamentally good. We are kind, considerate, and compassionate. We look out for another. We are altruistic. We are helpful. These little moments of connection and empathy naturally make us smile because they are rare gems—beautiful insights into the magic we possess to love and care for one another.

I’m glad I saw the video. Small as the moment may have been in the scheme of things, in a world where genocides are happening while we watch on television, where hunger and violence and oppression abound, it was an important one to see.

It reminded me that humanity isn’t as bad as we collectively reveal ourselves to be occasionally. There is good in us, even when it feels hard to find.

I encourage you to look for the helpers. Keep your eyes out for people doing good. We need these reminders so that we, ourselves, can keep doing good without being discouraged or hopeless.

Human goodness is everywhere. If something as small as a ball of yarn can reveal it, then it must be everywhere. It sits just beneath the surface, ready to show itself and for us to notice.

Let’s make sure we notice.

Amber Wardell is a doctor of psychology and author who speaks on women’s issues related to marriage, motherhood, and mental health. Subscribe to the free newsletter to get exclusive content delivered to your inbox and to never miss an upload.

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