Since Saturday I have heard many calls to unite our country, however, I have not heard anyone tell us HOW to heal from what we have witnessed over the last several years, and especially 2020.
The best I can offer you is to share my personal story in hopes it may show someone else their right next step. I mean…as the wise troll from Frozen 2 said, “When one can see no future, all one can do is the next right thing.”
There was a point a few years ago when the state of our country broke me. The level of division, hatred and lack of empathy took its toll on me, and I literally found myself in the fetal position under my covers crying for three hours. The moment was completely out of character for me, so I knew I couldn’t stay there. I had to write a new story that would get me out of bed and into action.
I remembered an important principle that both religion and science agree on…love is greater than fear. I literally sat up in the bed and decided at that moment I would not live in fear. I would out-love and out-give any hatred that was around me.
I turned my energy toward my own back yard and decided I would take personal responsibility to make my community better. This concept will look completely different for every person. For me, it looked like following my heart for foster care and becoming a Guardian ad Litem. As the saying goes “when the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Two other opportunities presented themselves to join non-profit boards that directly touched the things I was most passionate about.
To quote the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, “If you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself, something to repair tears in your community, something to make life a little better for people less fortunate than you. That’s what I think a meaningful life is. One lived not just for one’s self but for one’s community.”
Did you know that one of Ginsburg’s best friends was the late Justice Antonin Scalia? The two often had the most conflicting views on the bench and yet the closest friendship outside the courtroom. They served alongside one another, frequently disagreeing on rulings, yet still able to be filled with love for one another. My fear is that this is what is slipping from the fabric of our culture. While Washington may have grown that direction, our communities don’t need to. We can disagree and then roll up our sleeves and work together at the community garden, the food bank, our local chamber, or any project focused on improving our communities.
The book of James has continuously been a source of refuge for me since I was a teenager. James 1:19 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
The part I want to bring attention to is the “quick to listen.” There is no reason for us to let the political divides of this country divide our communities. If you are feeling frustrated with someone who maybe voted differently than you, rather than avoid them or be angry at them, my recommendation is to lean in. Ask them to coffee or lunch. As Steven Covey says in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, seek first to understand.
Over the last few years, I have made it a habit to ask questions. “Why do you think that? What experience shaped you that formed that opinion?” and then I listen with no judgment. I do not share my thoughts with most people because I do not believe their desire is to seek to understand. Their desire is to seek to respond. We have all seen this on social media.
Don’t be that person. If we are going to unite together to build stronger communities, may we be the ones who seek to understand; who ask questions just for the purpose of listening. May we learn from each other’s experiences.
As great of a sound bite as calling for unity makes on a television screen preached by a politician or celebrity, they have minimal impact on uniting us. We must make the decision to come together, each having a seat at the table, for how we will use our gifts and talents to rebuild this country into a better version than we have ever seen. The power rests in our hands.