Dear Aunt Traci,
It's been two days since the US presidential election. We're all hearing the news people, celebrities, and people all over social media comment on how "right" or "wrong" the result was. It seems everyone has an opinion, and no one wants to compromise. What do we do now?
Can't We All Just Get Along?
Dear Get Along,
I'm about to say something that might be rather shocking to my readers. Are you sitting down? Nothing has changed. That's right. There is nothing different today than there was a week ago. The only thing that has "changed" is that we are now aware of how deeply divided the United States truly is. Whether you were a Trump supporter, a Hillary supporter, a Bernie supporter, or were disgusted by the whole thing, the fact is that what played out on our national stage is nothing more than a reflection of what's playing out in our schools, our workplaces, and our homes.
Have you been to a middle school lately? They are brutal petri dishes filled with young people who have no filter. Adults don't usually walk up to one another and say things like, "I feel sorry that you have to look at that face every day in the mirror. You should just kill yourself and spare the rest of us having to look at you." Middle schoolers do.
Have you seen racism, sexism, ageism, and homophobia play out in the workplace? Have you seen economic injustice in your office, where the "best" performers aren't compensated fairly? Surely you have. Corporate greed and social inequality don't just happen on Wall Street.
What about our homes? Parents fighting mercilessly with each other, but staying together for the "sake of the kids." Verbal abuse, along with sexual and physical abuse are far more prevalent than most people want to think. I'll bet every one of my readers has a story they could share.
I, for one, became aware this week of how very far we have to go in our society (and not just the US). I really, truly was unaware of how angry and unhappy the vast majority of Americans are. It's like the proverbial wife whose husband cheats on her with his secretary. "I knew we had some problems, but I had no idea they were that bad!"
But, Get Along, I have another potentially shocking thing to say. Our anger is a GOOD THING. As my readers know, I come from a background in personal development. And the one thing that every expert in personal development (as well as those in organization and political change) says is that the first step in changing something is identifying that there is a problem. You can't fight an enemy you don't see.
The one thing that pretty much everyone can agree on is that we need to change some things. No matter which candidate you followed, they all said the same thing. This is not about one candidate or one election. It's about creating a strategy for change that is sustainable.
So, what does that mean for us regular folks? It means that none of us can just sit back and wait for Washington to make the changes that need to happen. Lasting improvement rarely comes from the top down.
It's about taking a look at the things you don't like about our world, and spending your own time, money, and resources to change it. You're upset about the state of public education? Run for school board. Homeschool your kids. Write, talk, start a blog.
Maybe it's homeless vets. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Start a canned food drive. Make sandwiches for the folks sleeping in parks.
Are you pro-life? Then get involved in helping to prevent unwanted pregnancy. Counsel teenagers, don't just preach at them.
Pro-choice? Do the same thing.
It's easy to look over our fences and say, "Well, if THEY would do something different, then things would be better." But the reality is, the only person you can control is yourself. You can only influence others.
At this moment in time, perhaps more than any other, it's important to recognize that we have more in common than we have differences.
You see, most of us want the same thing. We want a world that is fair and just, where people have the opportunities to make our dreams come true. We want economic prosperity and loving homes. We all want the same things! We just disagree on how to make it happen.
And, despite how things look this week, we are actually much closer than we think.
Whenever my kids and I take a road trip, about 3/4 of the way there I start to doubt my GPS. I say, "This can't be right. We have to be lost. There is no way that this is the right direction" and I contemplate turning around. But, the kids usually convince me to trust the navigation, and at some point I'll see a sign that lets me know I'm headed the right way.
This week, many of us in the world are doubting the progress we've made. The landscape doesn't look familiar and we're doubting that we'll ever get to the kind of world that we all want. But, do not despair. Let's keep working and pull together, and we'll get there.
Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.