Can Kindness Begin Healing Our Nation?
:05 read “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation, but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking.” ~Eckhart Tolle
In my last post, I told you I was craving a healing balm that could ease the fear and pain I see in people after a contentious presidential campaign with an O. Henry ending. (O. Henry was an author best known for his plot twists and surprise endings.) In this story, the candidate picked by the polls to win did not.
Like everyone else, I’ve been giving this a lot of thought. After all, we have not had a full week to digest what has happened and what it will mean. Let’s admit it. Either way, half of us would have been left upset by the outcome. You know what else? I trust that it will work out exactly the way the universe intends that it should unfold.
What’s more, I have great faith in human beings and in our country. It is my hope that we can exercise some patience and adopt a more “watch and see” approach before going off the deep end. I am pleased to see some tiny shoots of green growth showing up in the cracks.
A Chinese fable:
I love this classic tale about a Chinese farmer. Have you seen it?
A farmer had only one horse. One day, his horse ran away. His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset. The man just said, “We’ll see.”
A few days later, his horse came back with twenty wild horses following. The man and his son corralled all 21 horses. His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”
One of the wild horses kicked the man’s only son, breaking both his legs. His neighbors said, “I’m so sorry. This is such bad news. You must be so upset.”The man just said, “We’ll see.”
The country went to war, and every able-bodied young man was drafted to fight. The war was terrible and killed every young man, but the farmer’s son was spared since his broken legs prevented him from being drafted. His neighbors said, “Congratulations! This is such good news. You must be so happy!” The man just said, “We’ll see.”
Simple minded or just simple?
Here’s what I see happening (but watch closely or you might miss it.) Our culture has been cracked and even broken in some areas. What can we see going on in those places? Look closer. People reaching out to help bind the wounds. There are calm voices speaking healing between the hateful shouting. If you listen carefully you’ll hear them.
Does anyone remember what TV’s Mr. Rogers told us in the aftermath of September 11? When he was a little boy he was sometimes frightened by what he saw. His mother always told him when terrible things are happening, to “look for the helpers.” There are always helpers who run to the problem instead of running away. I think we need to look for the helpers, too.
The words that are spewed on social media right now are harsh and angry because emotions are running high. This has happened before. Remember how deeply our country was divided and steeped in hate after the Civil War? Human beings are amazingly resilient, though, and we healed. This is what Lincon had to say about a divided nation during his inaugural address:
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
I see many signs that we are beginning to listen to our “better angels.”
A new way to think about healing
I was fortunate to hear Lenora Billings-Harris speak about diversity several years ago and I was inspired by her brilliant handling of a difficult subject. She used the word ubuntu (pronounced ooh-boon-too) and it fascinated me. It is a word with origins in southern Africa. In a nutshell, ubuntu is defined as human kindness but it has a much deeper and richer meaning than simple kindness. Nelson Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit and defined it by saying “we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us.”
I think it’s time we embrace ubuntu and begin to recognize that we are far more similar than we are different. We can’t let our differences define us. We have to work to find the shared beliefs and have faith that we can build on them. As we move forward we have to leave our egos, our tempers, our shouting and our pride at the door. If we humble ourselves to listen, we can learn from each other. Give peace a chance.
“In fact, the more each person can remove his or her ego from the discussion and focus on the subject matter, the more fruitful the conversation will be for all involved.” ~Matthew Kelly