I'm generally optimistic, fiercely patriotic, and idealistically hopeful. But today, today there is a heaviness. There's a feeling that our country is at a worrisome crossroads. We sit surrounded by issues -- violence, rape, systemic inequity, and exploitation -- that will without a doubt require rethought regulations and forward-thinking legislation. Yet, this moment, this crossroads, demands something else from us. It demands something more individual. It demands that each of us -- from dorm rooms and legislative desks, church pews and corner offices, city blocks and country roads -- ask if we're okay living like this?
Can we dazedly watch our morning news knowing that the night before, on an idyllic college campus, a young woman was raped and encouraged to stay silent for fear of social retribution?
Can we watch four hours tick by on our desktop clock, realizing that was the same amount of time a young man's body was left in the streets, shot dead while unarmed.
Can we stare down at hashtags and news feeds -- sharing our wishes for world peace and justice now -- as we mindlessly pass the homeless vet who sits on our corner each day?
Can we contemplate whether Taylor Swift is "no like, actually crazy" while silencing thousands with mental illness until the next school shooting forces the issue across our consciousness?
We can't. We feel sick to our stomach. The tears well in our own eyelids. We demand better from this country. But first, we must push for better in ourselves.
I'm not so naive to believe that all this world requires is more kindness and more empathy. I won't bore with quotes from Ghandi or Margaret Mead. But I wonder if we've gotten to a point where we need to rein in our individuality. Where we need to -- still proud of what we can accomplish on our own -- demand more of what we accomplish together. We need to believe that individual achievement means little if it occurs in a world permeated by systemic injustice and cultural violence.
We're not OK living like this. And we won't. We'll look suffering in the eye, even if it hurts because we don't know the solutions yet. We'll talk about the hard issues and brainstorm the right solution, even if we know we'll fumble political correctness and say the wrong thing more than once. We'll turn off the news and turn to our communities. We'll question the excess and privilege in our own lives, and take individual action to promote equity. We'll celebrate vulnerability and shame indifference. We'll honor inclusion, and we'll practice it each opportunity we get.
Sometimes I fear that I feel the world too deeply -- the highs and the lows. I feel like a mass of naked nerve endings touched and moved by people and places around me. But last week, at a Vatican summit convened by the World Economic Forum, Pope Francis reminded us of the power that that kind of vulnerability brings. I'm reminded again today.
"We are a society which has forgotten how to weep, how to experience compassion".
So many are weeping, wailing, and shouting right now. There is indeed much to weep for. But we can't just weep when CNN asks us to. We must weep until real change comes about. And, we must live those changes out in our own lives. Our true joy will come with the knowledge that we didn't sit by complacent and indifferent, but that we wept, we walked arm and arm, and we built a new world together.
"We want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns. Rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal decision which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives." - Pope Francis