Leading up to the presidential election I could barely turn on the news, look at Facebook, Twitter or any of the news outlets on the internet, because it felt like a barrage of hate, finger pointing, he said – she said, I’m right your wrong messages. When I went to the polls on Election Day I didn’t know who to vote for. As I looked down at my ballot with my pen in hand I was dizzy with confusion, sadness and uncertainty. It was the first time since I was able to vote that I didn’t know who to vote for. My mind, my senses, my gut and my heart were all telling me different things. I finally listened to my gut and so I filled in the empty circle next to the candidate who I felt wasn’t necessarily the best, but would be better than the others. I woke up the next morning relieved that the election was over because I knew that at least for now the hate, finger pointing, he said – she said, I’m right your wrong messages would finally be over and I could once again peruse Facebook, Twitter and watch the news without any sense of dread.
And all was pretty good, until Inauguration Day when all hell broke loose. Once again I was faced with hate filled words, finger pointing, they said – we said, their wrong we’re right messages flying across the screens of my T.V., computer, iPhone and iPad. I wanted to hide, fly faraway to a deserted island or to a mountain cabin where there was no reception for a T.V. or social media. And it wasn’t just coming from news anchors, talk show hosts or politicians; it was neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, sister against sister. On Facebook friends were unfriending friends, family members unfollowing family members, arguments and voices raised in streets and communities across our nation. Was this the same country who just a few short years ago found us in the depths of grief as towers fell, planes crashed and lives were lost? Each day across our television screens we heard the names, saw their pictures and heard their stories of life, work and courage. In our grief we didn’t lash out or turn away, we came together and offered comfort, hope and love. We offered financial assistance, quilts and prayer shawls. People stood in lines to give blood and it didn’t matter who it went to we knew we needed to do it. We were a nation working together for the same cause, unity.
Today the word unity feels so foreign. We are not a unified nation but a nation turned against itself. And I understand the differences of opinions. I understand the differences in peoples wants and needs. I understand people feeling fear, because it is in the unknown where fear enters. The unknown causes our senses to be on high alert. Every new story, every misconstrued word or action, every new policy, every new declaration causes fear to grow stronger and we no longer have the ability to decipher what is real or not. We get two or more opinions from each news program or talk show we watch. No one can come to an agreement because we want to be right. We are a society that loves to point out everyone’s indiscretions, faults and failures. We love to say, “See, I told you so.” When our pride and need of wanting to be right outweighs compassion and understanding, unity is nothing more than a word found in the dictionary. The meaning of unity is useless until we take action.
As I watched the marches and protests erupt the day of and after the inauguration and over the last few days, I heard the voices and read the signs. At times I was in agreement and understanding and at other times I was upset and mortified. I’m not against marches and protests because I know that when they are done responsibly and with the utmost care things can be changed. People’s lives can be made better, safer and their futures brighter. But as I watched those protesting and marching in Washington DC and other cities across our country I asked myself these questions, “What if each person who was marching right now, was back in their own community using their time and money they spent to go march and instead were using it to help those who are oppressed, lonely, hungry, homeless, abused or set aside? What would our county look like if each citizen, neighborhood and community, reached out to help those who were in need by giving of their time, resources, talents and money, instead of spending their time and money to march or protest?”
Instead of carrying a sign what if we carried a meal to the house down the street where the lonely widow or widower lives or to the frazzled new parents who haven’t been able to sleep because of a colicky baby or to the family whose mother is battling cancer? Or maybe instead of carrying a sign we carried a hammer or screwdriver and helped build a home? Or maybe we picked up a pen and wrote our local, state and national leaders? Instead of standing outdoors listening to celebrities what if we sat down and listened to the grief stricken neighbor, veteran, single parent or the person who is of a different race, religion or country? Or maybe we went to the local nursing home and offered companionship to a resident? Instead of marching down the street what if we marched over to the school and helped a child learn how to read or to be a mentor to a troubled teen? Instead of wearing funny hats what if we gave our extra hats, coats and gloves to the homeless to help keep them warm?
Instead of purchasing a meal after the march, what if we worked at the local soup kitchen, church community meal or gave food to the food pantry? Instead of staying at a hotel, what if we volunteered to work at a homeless shelter or group home? Instead of using our money for gas to travel to the protest, what if we gave that money to a local or international mission project?
What if we loved our neighbor as much as we love ourselves? What if we listened more and talked less? What if we gave more and received less? What if we reached out expecting nothing in return?
What would our world look like, if we put our differences aside, decided to take action, worked together and reached out and took care of our neighbors? I believe it would be a world with hearts filled with compassion, freedom, love and unity.