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The good, the bad and Jim's wisdom

Facing Life Class. Photo courtesy of Theodore Lewis

Lessons From Everyday Life By Theodore Lewis

Bridgman, MI-- In 1968, the students of Adelphian Academy, a wonderful secondary educational institution in Holly, Michigan, were being inundated with bad news. The Vietnam War was raging, and I was wondering if, after graduating, I would be drafted into this war that seemed to have no light at the end of the tunnel. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated, and there were out-of-control riots, looting and burning in the city of Detroit only 40 miles away.

The security and serenity of our beautiful and peaceful boarding school campus had been shattered by some local hoodlums who had been driving onto our property at night, yelling obscenities and threats from their vehicle, as they cruised behind the girls’ dormitory.

One night, having received the alarm from the girls’ dorm that the would-be attackers were back, our courageous boys dean, Carl Ashlock, grabbed some of our more muscular male residents, jumped into his Volkswagen bug, and gave pursuit to the trespassers/would-be marauders.

A harrowing car chase ensued, ending in downtown Holly where the occupants of both vehicles spilled out onto the street. A full-scale brawl developed with baseball bats, chains and bare fists.

I had a class that year taught by our illustrious school principal, Roger Pratt, who was most beloved by students and staff. The class was called "Facing Life," where current events of the day were combined with history and the Bible, to give students a perspective on what they would need to succeed in life.

After this brawl in downtown Holly, I'll never forget walking into the class and seeing the black eyes and bruised/swollen faces of our courageous protectors who had defended our freedom and reputation from these no-good thugs.

We were all thankful for their courage and heroism that had kept us safe and sent a strong message to the bullies that they better not mess with anyone from Adelphian Academy again.

Our class discussions reflected on the tragic events happening around us, internationally, nationally and within our own state and town.

One of the questions debated in class was whether the bad people in the world, along with evil forces, were overcoming the good people of the world, and all that was good about life.

There were some strong arguments for a discouraging state of affairs that would plunge our society into the depths of despair. During the debate, our classmate Jim Hamstra walked to the head of the classroom. The tall and distinguished-looking Jim had something to say on the topic.

Jim Hamstra

Jim, who was from Detroit, was very intelligent and could speak with conviction and authority. He proceeded to give a verbal essay on why the good people of the world vastly outnumbered the bad people.

Jim went on to say that the bad things we heard on the news, while true, did not represent the totality of human behavior and activity. Every day there were good deeds being done, and good people helping others in this world, who never got recognized. We never heard the vast majority of the good that was occurring, as it wasn't newsworthy.

Even though this was an impromptu speech, to me it sounded like a doctoral dissertation, with references to sources, events, and facts that supported his hypothesis. Here was a guy who understood the scientific approach to issues, who knew how to analyze topics objectively, weighing all the pros and cons of both sides to an argument. I was so impressed with this speech that it was etched into my brain that day and has never left.

Every place that I've moved to in my career, I always analyzed the people in the community and region to determine in my own mind the makeup and character of the bad people versus good people who lived there.

Living in the D.C. area, after I moved to Washington Adventist Hospital, and then later became the new administrator at Leland Memorial Hospital in Riverdale, MD, I was thrown into a very difficult situation as my employer had announced plans to close Leland. Everyone at Leland and the surrounding community hated me.

In my first few days at Leland, I began to think that the people at the hospital and those in the community were bad and that Jim Hamstra's theory didn't really apply here. After a few weeks however, I came to realize that Jim was right, and the vast majority of the people associated with Leland were really good people, who only wanted a nice community to live in, which would be enhanced by having their own community hospital.

Later, having lived and worked in Maine for more than 10 years, I met a few bullies associated with my work. At times when I would get discouraged, I would just remember Jim's Facing Life speech, and being surrounded by the good folks of Maine, I would always be reminded of the goodness of mankind, and that life there truly was " the way life should be".

When I lived on Guam and worked at Guam Memorial Hospital, I met a couple of bad characters who made my life miserable, and at times I would be tempted to think the world was filled with evil people. Then, people like Roy Salvador, Jeannie Comlish, Meilou Milligan, Frank Ishizaki, Lee Webber, and many others overwhelmed me with kindness, and I was, once again, reminded of Jim Hamstra's speech.

Now, in 2024, plenty of bad things are happening out there with political discord, gun violence and drug use dominating the news. All this has been causing me to wonder if Jim's hypothesis is still true.

Yesterday, I was met with an act of kindness when a nurse standing in line in front of me at the coffee shop at Corewell Lakeland Hospital in St. Joseph, MI, paid for my coffee, saying she was paying it forward.  

This did not make the local news.

However, I am reminded that Jim's hypothesis from more than 50 years ago, is still right on, as there are many more good people than bad in the world today.

Theodore Lewis is the former CEO of Guam Memorial Hospital and has a healthcare consulting business in Bridgman, MI. He is collecting stories about lessons learned in life and can be reached at


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