Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration,
and we all need to assemble around us
the people who care about us and support us in times of strife.
Lately I have been discouraged by the fractures I see in society and in our daily relationships. It feels like half of us are on each side of every issue. We tiptoe around people we don’t know well in order to avoid uncomfortable and heated conversations. At times through the course of our history we have been able to look to our government leaders as a source of leadership. Now we see the same divisions among our would-be leaders as we find in our communities.
I have been waiting for our leaders to rediscover common sense and the ability to bring us back together. The longer I wait the more frustrated and disillusioned I become. I have been tempted to see the world in which I grew up as gone. Another way of life may be on the horizon although it might not appear in my lifetime. Maybe I have nothing left to contribute.
Then it occurred to me that elected representatives and officials did not appear out of thin air. Everyone elected is in office because some of us voted for them. They are in charge only because we let them be. If we don’t like the direction our community, nation or world is going, it is up to us to change it. If we want our leaders to cooperate with each others for our benefit, it is up to us to learn how to get along with each other and insist with our votes that those we elect do the same.
How do we make this change? We need to start with our own perceptions and feelings. We need to be clear on what we want. We also need to understand what others want. The hard part is to balance the two sets of needs. To do it, we must listen to each other. Criticizing everyone who differs from our ways just leads to more conflict. Learning to understand what others want and finding bridges between us and them is the next step.
I have wondered where to start this process. I discovered one way this morning. I sat in McDonalds, drinking my coffee, eating breakfast and writing in my journal. I noticed the music playing in the background. It consisted of some of my favorite folk ballads from the 1960’s. When I finished breakfast, I told the woman at the register that I would like to register a compliment. I told her how much I enjoyed listening to the music. I could tell that my comment brightened her day and mine as well.
I also visited Aldi’s this morning. I found the store completely rearranged while I was away for the past month. I told the checkout clerk that I liked the new store layout and that it must have been quite a project to make the changes. She also brightened up and we parted both wearing smiles.
These encounters might seem small to you. What if we all looked for ways to compliment each other? Perhaps this might be a start back toward more civilized and mutually supportive communities. Perhaps this would lead to more constructive conversations. Please join me and give it a try.