Possibilities: Looking Beyond our Ideas of ‘Good’

We’re committed to shining a light on GOOD in Shasta County. But how will we define what’s good? Brisolara responds to a reader question with the framework by which she’ll be evaluating diverse community actions as she interviews those doing Underground Good.
Photo by Pricilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Ed Note: This Opinion piece by sociologist Sharon Brisolara is part of our new series, Underground Good, which focuses on providing a window into the mindsets of ordinary people doing good work in their community. Learn more about the series here.

You’ve responded!

We’ve already received more than a dozen nominations of those doing Underground Good in Shasta County. I’ll be reaching out to those who were initially nominated and am looking forward to hearing from more of you. 

Those you nominated are engaged in a wide range of activities, including providing resources for people experiencing food or housing insecurity, organizing community clean-ups, mentoring youth, raising awareness about community and regional issues, gathering funds for community causes, organizing affordable housing, supporting people experiencing discrimination or mental illness, keeping the doors open for community organizations, and connecting people with various other forms of support.   

We also heard from someone with an important concern: What is the definition of good? They wrote:

“How will you define good? It’s a challenge to find a standard that all will agree with. Someone might conscientiously and tirelessly promote a ‘social good’ that others might find too controversial and even unacceptable. Who decides? Some ‘conservative’ person or some ‘progressive’? Can we all agree?”

Chances are we won’t agree on a definition of good. But we probably don’t need a shared definition to benefit deeply from being curious about where good can be found.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”


Although we won’t follow one definition, that doesn’t mean that anything qualifies as good even if it was nominated as such. We’ll limit our coverage of Underground Good to nominations that fall within Shasta Scout’s journalistic mission to “actively address the darker legacies . . . of our society” that have been responsible for contributing to systems of oppression and violence. With these frameworks in mind, we can be clear that no acts of racism, sexism, ableism or violence or efforts to promote racist, sexist, or ableist ideologies can be deemed “good.”

But because our search for Underground Good draws from diverse people engaged in diverse ways of caring for their communities, you, dear reader, will not always agree with the individuals presented. 

You may not think that the activity is justified, appropriate, or effective. You may cry out for attention to deeper root causes or feel that dismantling an institution is the only way forward. You may appreciate what a person does, but find it hard to look past their political or other ideologies. These are all very human responses and they’re the same ones I will face. 

This column is an invitation for you to reflect on what it means, for you, to do good. Do you believe that trying to make the world a better place matters? If so, where do you see good happening? What about the efforts you value is important? What inspires others—what inspires you—to engage deeply, despite inevitable challenges? It is my hope that the conversations in this column will invite such reflections.

Despite our differences, we can learn much from each other. We can become more aware of the good being enacted around us. We may experience gratitude, reflect on what gives us hope, or perhaps think about what gets in the way of our own community engagement. We may understand some of our neighbors just a little better. 

And maybe that experience, in itself, is a good we can all get behind.

You can find the rest of our Underground Good series here. Nominate someone here.

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