I wrote the short piece below for the paper. I had hoped to encourage people, but was surprised at how controversial it became (judging by the comments on a local website). The experience caused me to see why the vast majority of individuals keep to themselves. Once again, Gandalf’s comments seem appropriate:
Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.
Never in my life, which extends to the previous century and millennium, have I seen an American election produce more anguish and heartache. People everywhere are weeping and gnashing their teeth. Unimaginable stress causes them to succumb to migraine headaches. Formerly joyous individuals buckle under the weight of depression and despair. Morosity and bitterness run rampant. Some have fallen under a spell of hopelessness, and actually contemplate leaving the country. This level of anxiety reflects a dim view of what our nation is built upon.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue sits exactly 1,173 miles from my doorstep. Along that route you’d pass through field and forest, cities great and small, villages of people engaging in everyday actions that make America great, and alongside the farms and farmers who feed us. The strength and vitality of the United States is found in its people. Yes, that even includes you and me. This reality is unimpeachable.
Our energy and focus can be more productively directed to where we may be of real influence: our neighbors across the road, and where we devote our time and treasure. We have the greatest impact while living life to the fullest, delighting in liberty, and are fully engaged in the pursuit of happiness. Rather than pass anxiety on to your children, impress these self-evident truths upon them.
Read a book by someone who has walked or biked across the length and breadth of this country, and you’ll discover an optimist, because they’ve been in close contact with what truly makes our nation great. Read my book, for that matter. The kindness of strangers has often been a balm to my soul. Be that balm for others.
Extend kindness and love to that mysterious neighbor who proudly displayed the political sign. Marvel at their bravery for taking such a public stand. After all, such a stance is bound to irritate someone, and could even invite vandalism. Conversely, get to know the weird family down the street. Extend your blessing to the old curmudgeons who keep to themselves, as well as that new young couple whom you feel cares nothing about the neighborhood. Might they just be busy or shy?
You are surrounded by people who are chock full of amazing talents, experiences, and expertise. You just have to dig for them. Go ahead. You’re not prying. Just be interested.
It took me decades to arrive here, but I can assure you that living in this place of absolutely zero angst over the outcome of a national election is a great place to be.
I am convinced that I can be of more use to the world by doing what makes me come alive, rather than by concentrating precious life energy upon an act that takes place every four years. For me that means writing words, growing food for my community, and by adding beauty to someone’s everyday life through the painting of their home. How about you?
I did vote, but that just might be the least important aspect of citizenship. How could this infrequent act possibly be elevated to the significance of loving one’s neighbor, for example?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Those are the words of scripture, passed down for generations, and to you at this very moment. Regardless of our politics, most of us can agree on this.
Also, when it comes down to brass tacks, can you think of any President in your lifetime who has ever delivered upon their promises? In the main, things keep humming along the way they always have.
Many things do need to change, but history has shown that these changes simply do not come from the top down. On rare occasions, when they do, backlash results. Lasting change occurs as a groundswell through the individual actions and opinions of the people. Justice will roll down like water when our everyday actions match our most sacred desires.