If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem.
Not too long ago, I reviewed John Meachum’s book, The Soul of America. I noted that the soul of which he speaks is a patchwork of all of those who inhabit America and as such is a messy concept to describe and make sense of. Our collective soul is a fabric woven from our individual souls. But what does this mean?
Each of us has a stake in the meaning and makeup of our country. We do have some things in common. I would dare say the majority of us agree that we would like to have the basics to build a satisfying life for ourselves. We would also like to have adequate housing, enough food to eat, good health and the opportunity for our children to make their own way in the world.
Some of us are born with a head start. Support from our parents and relatives, family financial resources and a neighborhood in which we can feel safe give us confidence that we can set and meet goals for our lives. Others in this country barely have a toehold. They may have arrived as refugees from oppressive countries by the skin of their teeth. They may not understand or speak English. They may have valuable skills but not appropriate credentials by which their skills can be recognized or documented.
Some of us had a relatively peaceful upbringing and entered adulthood confident of our ability to make our own way in the world. Others of us have been marginalized and made to feel inferior in comparison with our fellow citizens. We do not all emerge from our childhood and adolescence with the same perspective on the world, our country or ourselves. All of the things I have mentioned go into the makeup of our individual souls.
In my opinion, your soul consists of one’s past experiences and how they have affected your sense of who you are, your feeling of self-worth and outlook on the prospects for a fulfilling life. In addition to thoughts about yourself you also carry feelings which result from these experiences. You might emerge from your upbringing as happy, optimistic and self confident. With different experiences, you might emerge as unhappy, pessimistic and unsure of yourself.
The soul of America is a mixture of all of our individual souls. With our different backgrounds and experiences, it can be very difficult for us to understand and support each other. That is the challenge we face. It may be difficult but that does not make it impossible. Just try to remember that not everyone has had the same experiences you have and may view their life very differently from how you view yours.
- Take time to understand what lies in your soul.
- What do you like about what you find and what could you change?
- When meeting strangers, try to understand what lies in their souls.
- Think what it would be like to have their history.
- Try to understand your differences.