It has been a long 2020 we have been through with the coronavirus. Lost loved ones. Business closures. School shutdowns. Kid’s sports cancelled. Graduation and wedding celebrations postponed. No one has been unaffected. It’s been a difficult and exhausting year for everyone.
It has long been said that times of crisis bring us closer together. But everywhere you look these days, people are arguing and disagreeing over virtually anything. Today Joe Biden was announced the President-elect, by a razor’s margin, meaning Donald Trump will not serve a second term in office. Some are celebrating Trump’s demise. Others believe our democracy is rigged. Never in my lifetime has America seemed so divided.
As we exit 2020 and head into a new era, our politicians appear to be heading for even more gridlock. However, we as people do not have to reflect the same divisiveness towards each other in our communities. We need not reflect our politics; in fact, it is supposed to be the other way around.
The truth is we could all spend less time telling people what we disagree about (less time on social media in general), and more time working together to make a positive impact in our own personal spheres of influence. In my estimation, it is going to take some time for our national politicians to follow suit, but we each have the individual capacity to make a positive difference in others lives – even for people we might politically disagree with.
To make a positive impact next year, I am recommitting to three big ideas:
1. Our Hope Is Us
The founders understood the last and best place to safekeep our hope as a nation was in “We, the People.” Our hope is not in governments or political parties or candidates. The founders enshrined into our democratic processes that our leaders can only derive their power from the people.
I confess that I have felt despair during this election season: first, because of the levels of negativity and hostility, and second because neither candidate or party has my enthusiastic support. I say this knowing that many are excited about one or the other and I respect that. But more than ever before, I have felt discouraged by the national discourse, and by what I see on social media on both sides. The most divisive messages seem to have the loudest foghorn.
Most people I know, when talking to them personally, rise above the noise. They will talk deeply and caringly about their hopes and dreams. We all want what is best for the next generation. Shedding the politics, the labels, the division, we share so much in common.
Thankfully, we still have the privilege of living in a democratic republic, and enjoy liberties that most of the rest of history could only dream about. The American experiment—an experiment that many thought would fail and on several occasions came perilously close to failing—has resulted in the longest lasting, greatest democracy in human history. And it all starts with us.
2. Stand for Justice
I believe most all of us want to do the right thing. We want to do right by others – economically, socially, racially, environmentally. We all care about justice. Justice for all.
As Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow. Come now, and let us reason together.” Or Proverbs 31:8, which reads, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Regardless of religion or political party, I believe we all want to do right by others. When we see people as people, without labelling others, we naturally accomplish so much more together, almost as if by magic. The best of us shines through when we work together toward a purpose bigger than ourselves.
In my hometown of Spokane Washington, for example, when the coronavirus lockdown began, one of the consequences was that some parents suddenly found themselves in the unemployment line and short on food for the family. Spokane Food Fighters was formed – a partnership formed by a local representative, techies, philanthropists, and local restaurants. Together, they delivered over 120000 hot meals over five months to families in need during the pandemic.
Did the Spokane Food Fighters help create a more just environment during the pandemic? Absolutely. Do we still have a long way to go in recovering from Covid-19? Yes. Of course. We have a long ways to go. But what unites us is far greater than what divides us. When it comes to justice, we can stand together more often.
3. Love Everyone
An excellent book I have been turning back to recently is called “Gracism: the Art of Inclusion” by David Anderson. In the book, he unpacks how Christ is above societal divisions: there is no longer division of Jew or Gentile (race), slave or free (class), male or female (gender), but we are all one. Galatians 3:28.
I want our community and our country to be safe for everyone, and to provide the same opportunities for all children. I want kids to grow up where, as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” We have to stand for justice and against injustice.
Allow me to state something obvious: racism exists. It is baffling to me how many cannot speak that truth. It’s a truth both demonstrable and undeniable. Nonetheless, I have come to realize that others need to hear these words coming out of my mouth. Second, racism is wrong and it is damaging. There has been too much racial insensitivity during election cycles. Racial injustice comes in many sizes and shapes, large and small, but all of them hurtful. And, America has never fully lived up to its promise of life, liberty and justice for all.
How many other ways have we invented to divide and define ourselves? Rich, poor, young, old, culturally, ethnically, by drawing geographic lines, or dividing by two political parties, etc. The labels and factions can drive us so far apart. But none adequately define us, or define the way we love those around us.
Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we put our focus first on caring for one another, loving thy neighbor? Love does not have to be complicated. It is something you do, not something you feel. It can be as simple as an invitation to talk. To acknowledge my neighbors. To engage, empathize and learn from those I don’t understand. To celebrate and enjoy the things that really matter.
Just caring, without an agenda. It’s tempting to think there is more to loving others, but there’s not.