There's a certain lament that presumes society in general has been going to a bad place, probably in a handbasket, for generations.

According to this sentiment, kids are less polite, people are less caring, streets are more dangerous and, in general, things aren't nearly as good as they were back in the day.

It's easy to fall into the habit of joining the chorus, but there's also good reason to try to avoid such pessimism.

One is the reality that the good old days weren't necessarily all that good for everyone. Think segregation, and women's rights, for example.

Then there's the reality that good hearted people do wonderful things out of the blue, and always have, but modern technology has the ability to magnify their efforts.

When Jim VanHorn and his family, wife Lisa, their three daughters, and his mother, Phyllis Van Horn and a daughter, Pam Birch, were burned out of their Joppa house over the weekend, it was just a matter of days before they were receiving an outpouring of community support.

Heather Mays, of Catonsville, a family friend of the VanHorns, immediately set up a fund drive on a web site called fundrazr.com and by Tuesday had raised $6,800 on the way to a goal of $50,000. In addition, a variety of gifts have been donated because the VanHorn children, ages 8, 9 and 11, lost all their Christmas presents in the fire.

"I just get teary-eyed thinking about it and all the people that have been so generous..." Jim VanHorn told Aegis reporter David Anderson.

The coming weeks aren't likely to be the good old days for the VanHorn family, as they lost everything, save a few pictures, in the fire and it will take a tremendous effort to re-establish a home.

They can, however, take consolation in the comfort of knowing that so many people have been willing to give so much to help them make that tremendous effort.

Come think of it, we can all take comfort in knowing that so many people are so willing to lend a hand.