“What you do for yourself dies with you when you leave this world; what you do for others lives on forever.” ―Sir Ken Robinson
This past week was a real defining moment for our country. We went through a roller coaster ride of the election, followed by a sudden announcement this weekend of the new President-elect Joe Biden. Kamala Harris, our new Vice President-elect the first in many ways, broke the nation’s most notorious glass ceiling. We are a country seeking to move forward in a different direction, heralding a time for healing and unity. I am fully behind that message of hope.
If you are not happy with the outcome, it might be time to ask yourself a question…WHY?
For the past four years, I have listened, dialogued, studied, and tried to better understand what was happening to our country. I felt called to run for public office, and in so doing, came face-to-face with people’s stories. Not everyone was doing well, and many, like myself, were deeply concerned with the negative, divisive statements coming out of the Oval Office. I have lost the relationships of family members and friends who felt there was only one answer or one issue. Deep in my heart, I realized we were starting to listen to a message of division and were giving up on the idea of unity and cooperation. I wanted to try to change that narrative by offering that we have such diversity, and while we don’t always agree, diversity is our strength. The Civil Graces talked about ways we could come together by first addressing the issues within our hearts to rediscover common ground with one another. I looked deeply into the spirit of America and wanted to remind us that we still can find a way if we have courage…if we come from a place of the heart.
Even as I published the book, the tensions mounted with increased racism and devastation of a pandemic, exposing our nation’s deep wounds and inequalities. I felt like maybe I was naïve and too optimistic about the possibilities of coming together. My privilege was fogging my vision. Maybe things were too far gone, and those in power were interested only in winning for themselves and those who supported them. As the months continued, I continued to ask myself questions if I genuinely could believe in what I wrote even though all the evidence was pointing to the contrary. The electoral map on Tuesday night was the last straw…yes, I was wrong. I felt sick to my stomach and wanted to be anywhere, but here. It wasn’t a partisan thing, but the revelation of who we are as a nation and what that map symbolized. Are we going to think only of ourselves, or can we transcend that narrative and take back our democracy to be one that works for all? Saturday morning, I will never forget that announcement–America had chosen the path of unity and hope. Suddenly all that I had been holding inside released, and I sobbed. Tears of relief filled my spirit, and as thousands around the planet, we began to dance and sing. We hadn’t given up on each other.
As we move into the flow of the weeks that follow, we have work to do. Rather than shouting more outbursts of deception and division, maybe the recount we need to be doing is in our own lives. Where have we harbored ill feelings toward each other and built walls instead of bridges? I know I have to face family members who eventually stopped talking because we were at an impasse. Somehow we have to find a way back to the table to see each other and try to find ways to heal. Some are saying, “Good riddance! There is no way you can co-exist with someone who voted that way! Let them sort it out on their own.” But I think we all know what happens next when we walk away from each other. The problems don’t just go away. Hatreds may fume and smolder until the next opportunity to punch back arises. We have to address all that is between us–heart to heart and one by one. It is going to take time. I haven’t been a fan of politicians who held office for decades, but when I learned how all these years in public service and personal sacrifice shaped our incoming President, I thought how profound. We are in a magical defining moment where all our struggles can be the very thing that transforms us as they did for him. The beauty of Kamala Harris’ American story gives us hope that anything is possible for those who dream. These are images that we can hold as we shape and define our new paradigm together.
Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorite thought leaders, and he was one of the many we lost this year. When I searched for a way to express my feelings, his quote above appeared. Not to make a life for just ourselves, but to live a life that will be cherished by loved ones forever. He once said, “love is what we are born with, and fear is what we learn.” Fear leads us to build our world so small in order to feel safe that we lose all hope of having a life of meaning and contribution. We were born to love. Love opens the doors to the unknown and asks us to try again. Many people who justified the way they were voting used economic examples, outrages with labels of “socialism,” conspiracy, and moral superiority inconsistent with what this administration has done. We cannot live a life just for ourselves. Making sure everyone has a fair chance is not the meaning of socialism. We have to step away from the screens and listen for truth within ourselves with discernment.
I am not here to convince you of what politics to believe in, but somewhere in your memory, you may recall that we are here to serve each other and to live a life of purpose beyond what is in our wallets. We have a big task ahead of us to rewrite the American story. Will it be one of inclusiveness, reconciliation, and building a future of equality for all? Or will we choose to follow a path toward retribution and revenge? History will serve to remind us that no one can survive alone nor do the work alone. Those who sought to divide and conquer in the end fell on their own sword. As John Kennedy stated, “those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.”
It is time we begin again. We take one step forward on a lifelong journey that we have inherited from our ancestors and set the path for generations to come. We are united for better or worse to figure this out, and I believe and hope that somehow we will.
Photo credit: Edwin Williams Photography LLC–at Chadds Peak Farm