It is an understatement to say that we’re reeling. All of us, not just my wife and I at the breakfast table this morning with heaviness, with tears in our eyes, with uncertainty about what to do next.
What is our responsibility? Is that not the task – determining next steps, what it takes to take steps, and to make certain the ground under us is firm? For we are called to let fly our better angels, yes to reconcile, to work with the new administration to help build an inclusive, fair, caring and vibrant nation, a nation that works for everyone.
For my wife and me, our first response is to reach out to our children, grandchildren and siblings, reaffirming our values of compassion, tolerance and love including love of our nation which has opened its doors and hearts to the lost, the scared, those “yearning to be free,” which fought a civil war over the affront that this nation would be half slave and half free, that some are fully human, some only partially human.
So what’s the work, I ask myself on this morning, as knees weaken and spirits sag? Perhaps first it is to remind ourselves of that most deeply, most universally shared religious tradition, the Golden Rule, that which would summon us away from bigotry, indecency, greed and self-centeredness. Witness:
- Christianity: “In everything do unto others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12
- Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole of the Torah: all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbot 31a
- Islam: “Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself.” Fortieth Hadith of an-Nawawi, 13
- Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” The Mahabharata 5:1517
And know that this charge is not reserved for the faithful alone. Many are not spurred by faith, many are avowedly non-faith but who are galvanized by a deep sense of social justice, which, for me, is the Golden Rule in action.
For me, the next part of the work is to remind ourselves of those who refused to be darkened in dark times. Consider Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and closer to home, Mattie Lawson, a California mother who lost two of her children to gang violence, who in the midst of her excruciating grief pledged this: “I lost two kids to violence. I now have 400 children. No other child in my neighborhood will die.”
In our pain and bewilderment, we would involute, huddle. Are we not called to do the exact opposite: to reach out beyond our pain to family and friends, to encourage (which is to give heart), to help heal, to be present? This is the next part of our work even though it is difficult as knees do weaken and sprits do sag. We must do the difficult, pledging to strengthen each other.
I feel pretty clear about this, the work going forward, but less so about my next civic step, for beyond the concentric circles of family and friends are the neighborhoods, the larger community, our nation. We are called also to citizenship, to do something and to stay with that “something.” It can be as modest as a meal for a sick neighbor or as large as involvement in a political campaign. But this step we must take. And we must do this in the spirit of reconciliation and hope.
The brilliant theologian William Sloane Coffin makes a distinction between optimism and hope. Optimism, has a certain calculus, while hope “is what’s still there when all your worst fears have been realized.”
Rooted in core values, inspired by those who refused to be darkened, reaching out to support friends and family, and pledging to civic action(s), we must move forward. America is deeply divided. In the spirit of reconciliation, our job is to help it heal, to help build a fairer nation that works for everyone.
CEO, Hope Matters