I always joke that I live in a town known for 'peace, love and happiness'. It's commonplace to see peaceful protestors for various causes in the center of town, just a part of the local fabric. But the truth is that this small enclave nestled into the Catskill Mountains, famous for a concert or two, rich with creativity, art and progressive thinking, could really adopt a new tagline of 'peace, love and my opinion.' My way. This rolls out regularly from local elections and beyond, to most recently the changing of a school mascot -- which has been the hotbed issue du jour, creating a great deal of divisiveness. I guess 'love is love is love is love'...unless of course you are not like me, you don't agree with me, and then things get heated. Alas, as a counterbalance, there is a drum circle -- drumming for peace every Sunday afternoon on the village green. Hey, we take our 1st Amendment Rights seriously around here, but I think we can all do better in this department. Life is more than just about expressing opinions, it's about the deeper conversation and connection. This is where we can find the love -- within ourselves and reflected back from others.
It's hard to write about anything else when tragedy strikes. It stirs us. It stops us in our tracks. It makes us take stock.
Orlando. We mourn, our hearts break, and we fervently pray for those who have tragically lost their lives. And for those who are now left to pick up the pieces of senseless, despicable acts of violence against humanity. We pray for all of us to show up as our best, tolerant, loving, compassionate selves. These large events that stream 24/7 on the news showcase the new reality. But every day we are presented with small moments to choose -- divisiveness or acceptance. Conflict or conversation. We find it in our own homes, our schools, our offices, our communities, on the sports fields of our children, in our political elections and beyond. The results of those very choices become the trickle down that will be felt like aftershocks of an earthquake.
Sometimes we sidestep the bigger picture and trivialize what's really at stake. What are we teaching our kids when we do not create room to listen, learn, converse, to live side by side -- to connect to their humanness, not their need to be right?
It's not about walls, but bridges.
It's not about divisiveness, but diversity.
It's not about self-medication, but self-exploration.
It's not about searching outwardly for what can only be answered within.
It's not about needing to be right merely to make another wrong.
It's not about not having enough, there is room for us all.
It's not about seeing our differences, but rather our commonalities.
It is about our humanness.
Whether a panhandler on the street, a refugee seeking political asylum, a follower of a different faith, gender identity, race or someone who likes vanilla ice cream cones with colored sprinkles when another likes strawberry -- it's about compassion. It's about seeing beyond circumstances -- seeing a person as a person.
I don't care what bathroom you want to use. I care that you are a kind person. I care that you want to tap into your purpose and passion in the world. I care that you care to be a better version of yourself today than you were yesterday. I care that you feel for another human being. I care that you want to make the world a better place.
What happened to the great melting pot?
I'm not a Pollyanna, but I know this path of intolerance is not the way. Intolerance is fear, so what are we afraid of? Our answers are found in our questions to self, in our deeper dive into our soul, not in forcing another to think as we do, live as we do, choose as we do.
Where is the celebration of our diversity?
What role can you play? What small step can you take in your day-to-day life -- catching yourself in a small judgment of another, in formulating a negative opinion, or simply missing an opportunity to be kind? Little things become big things. They plant seeds. We can gather a tribe that supports our closed, small-minded theories, or we can gather a tribe that stretches our thinking, prodding us along a path of self-expansion.
At some point we need to stop traveling through this life, aimlessly set on autopilot, convincing ourselves that we don't have time to think about all of this 'stuff,' only paying attention when some abhorrent tragedy strikes. The reality is that we cannot afford not to. It's time to go inward -- to do our inner work.
Do you stand for love?
When we formulate opinions of others, they are reflections of how we feel about ourselves (ouch). When we spew intolerance and ugliness, it is emanating from somewhere deep within, some wounded sense of self. Doesn't that shift the tables for moment? Love is an inside job. Self-love is a result of showing up for our own work. If we want to profess that 'love is love' and fill our social media sites with hashtags, we must first fill our own wells of compassion...unconditional compassion and love. Tap into it that beautiful well within and watch what flourishes.
One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
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[Photograph by Steve Snider]