Yesterday, almost one million students across the United States of America, walked out en masse to protest school shooting and the inability of adults to agree upon how to make our schools safer.
There were two types of protests that were happening. One was #walkout which encouraged students to leave their school classrooms and #walkup which encouraged these young adults to find someone who seemed to exist “on the edges” and talk with them eat lunch and begin a conversation that hopefully would develop into a relationship. I supported the #walkout and the #walkup protests and thought both had merit and could change lives. Neither was a perfect way of protesting but each one was worth doing.
However, I noticed that many folks were for one or the other. Not many looked for balance in the two approaches. Students were either labeled #walkup or #walkout. It seemed not much conversation was happening between the quickly diverging groups. This made me sad. The reason the students were protesting is that adults can’t talk to one another, find a compromise, work together on behalf of our nation’s youngest and brightest. Now, it was happening again.
I am sick of litmus tests that divide us as a nation, community, and families. I am tired of people not being able to listen to one another even if we do not agree with the other. There is almost always a middle way where we remember we’re all human, deserving of respect and kindness instead of disdain and meanness. Perhaps one day we will realize we have more in common than what we allow to tear us apart.
Improving Upon Silence? –
A couple of weeks ago I tried having a conversation with a man who wouldn’t stop yelling. His rant was about everything and nothing. No matter how I tried I couldn’t get him to listen, to move beyond his tantrum and into a dialogue. When his hour was up I wished him well but wasn’t sure the session did anyone, including myself, any good.
Tonight in our Incarcerated Father’s class I spoke to the participants about moving beyond anger and into a productive exchange with others. The steps are; respect for the other, listen to the other, be open to constructive criticism and have the self-awareness to know or hear what needs to change in your life and respond positively.
As I reflected on the lesson I thought about the man from a few weeks ago, my Facebook feed over the last several months, protest marches, inaugurations, and too many other instances where people are yelling, complaining, talking incessantly and rarely, if ever, shutting up.
Silence is in short supply these days. If someone doesn’t stop yacking and start listening soon things are only going to get worse.
What Unites Us –
This morning our Fatherhood Engagement program held a Father-Child reading event in a little town named Hohenwald. The event was at the library in town, so I stopped by Wal-Mart, grabbed a few brunch items and according to the clock in the truck would arrive plenty early to set up and do whatever else needed to be done for a successful affair.
Approaching downtown I noticed people with bright orange jackets, hoodies and hats standing in the middle of the road. I wasn’t sure if something bad had happened but slowed down and proceeded cautiously. Getting closer I realized they were collecting money for something and the light turned green so I wasn’t able to ask; “Why? What reason?”
We were close to getting started at the library when I noticed a woman walking towards the exit. She was wearing a bright orange hat and I stopped her and inquired; “Are you with the folks at the traffic lights? What are you collecting monies for?” She told me they were a local hunting club , raising funds for impoverished children at Christmas. They did this fundraiser every year to help those in need.It was interesting to put the two things together; “hunting club and children’s’ Christmas fundraiser.”
I needed that conversation today. I’m not a hunter, don’t like guns, but I love kids and think everyone should have a little something under the tree on Christmas day. If this woman and I would have talked more we probably would have discovered a lot of differences between us but, hopefully, even more similarities.
After a week of divisiveness and choosing sides, labeling, judging, and protesting I needed to be reminded that what unites us is often fargreater than what divides us.
“May peace and wisdom be upon our nation. Amen.”
Today is; “Cow Appreciation Day.” I had no idea. It wasn’t on my calendar, I didn’t get a card, or buy a cake for the cows across the road whom belong to my next door neighbor. I only discovered the meaning of this day when I was on Twitter this morning and saw the #CowAppreciationDay.
There’s also a more serious discussion happening on social media the last several days following the deaths of two black men and five Dallas police officers. Protests on both sides are popping up in many cities across America and the chant, signs, mottoes being used are; “#BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter or #AllLivesMatter. The debate seems to hinge on which slogan to use and which one is insulting to one or all groups.
I haven’t waded into these heated debates and have no plans to do so. I understand, as best I can, both sides of the arguments while conceding that I am a middle-aged white man who has never been treated differently because of the color of his skin nor does my job put me in harm’s way or call on me to make life and death decisions at a moment’s notice on a daily basis. There is passion, pain and persistence on all sides of this needed and difficult discussion.
My heart hurts to see brothers and sisters at war with each other. The vitriol and hate spewed at times by both sides makes me wonder if we’ve ever been or will ever be a nation at peace. I hope so, but to find common ground both sides must admit the sin, damage and harm inflicted purposefully and accidentally upon the other.
The definition of appreciation is; to recognize and enjoy the good qualities of someone or something. It is to value, treasure, admire, respect, regard, hold in esteem or high opinion.
“To recognize and enjoy the good qualities of someone…” Sounds like a good place to start to me.