This past month has been tough. Definitely the toughest month since COVID began. The resurgence has everyone concerned about the diminished prospects for a return to normalcy and confidence in our public institutions to handle the situation fairly and effectively has waned.
Partisanship has reached a feverish pitch, causing many to wonder if our political institutions can ever be successful again. Longstanding frustrations around justice and equality are being spotlighted. Many are expressing outrage that they do believe in nor share the promise of the American Dream and the hope that many of us have in our way of life.
While we may have gone into the COVID lockdown a few months ago with a somewhat unified front that we faced a common evil, now many seem turned on each other in frustration as the disease prolongs this period of uncertainty. We are certainly living in trying times…
A short article cannot address any of these issues in any measure but I can share two principles, which are key to building individual peace of mind and collective unity. Gratitude and compassion change our outlook toward our circumstances and one another.
I’m grateful for the fact that despite the difficulties of this present time, we still enjoy the highest standard of living and freedom in the world. Locally, many are able to continue to work, and the number of people whose frustrations include keeping their lawns green and spotty internet says we are still doing OK.
I don’t know what living under the Blitz in London was like, nor do I know what famine in Ethiopia, the Iron Curtain, a tsunami in Southeast Asia, or dire poverty for many the world over are like to live through. We have secure homes, food to eat, for most at least one job in each household, and for those that lack some of these things, we have the highest level of support from social organizations, charities, government, religious networks and individuals anywhere on earth. We clearly have suffered some loss, but not nearly as much as many in history or around the world even today.
On the other hand, there are those who live under a cloud of perceived rejection, experiencing frequent subtle and sometimes overt acts of indecency. They live with the question in their minds whether their neighbors really view them as equal and valuable human beings. It can begin to make sense why they might see our national ideals as empty rhetoric. The raging debate around us makes it hard to hear their legitimate concerns.
How do we listen to those who are suffering acts of indecency or indifference, reject the violence that is distracting from those who deserve to be heard, and honor public service while acknowledging when a few fail to uphold the ideals of the public trust?
These are complex, interconnected issues that will not be solved quickly. I’d like to thank the few individuals who have been willing to share their stories, not seeking for attention, but quietly expressing the pain they’ve endured and overcome. That education for me has been eye-opening, that individuals with great personal success and seemingly very happy and content can have deep wounds that last many years from others words or deeds.
It is my hope that through conversations like these, bridges of compassion and empathy can be built to repair the damage that harmful words and deeds have had. There is no shame in recognizing shameful behavior in the past or present. In fact, it is necessary for healing. If there is to be hope for the future in this area, we certainly need a commitment to listen and learn what life looks like in another’s shoes.
This year as our July 4th celebration commences let’s remember what it actually meant for those who signed the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The signers made a commitment that day to a long struggle ahead. While we celebrate what they accomplished, on that day they had just begun the long and arduous process towards the freedom we now enjoy.
On this July 4th, let’s renew our commitment to each other and in doing so take a step on the journey towards ensuring the promise of our nation’s ideals reaches to each and every one of its citizens.