Things I'm Learning From The US Election
I’ve been unable to write the past few days. Unable to trust that I’d use my words wisely. And I don’t know for sure I can do that today. Don’t know for sure I’ll hit that publish button when I’m done. But I do know I need to write the words down. Because that’s what writers do.
We bleed a little on the paper.
And sometimes it makes us feel better.
A disclaimer: I’m not a US citizen and I don’t live in your country. But many of my dear friends and family do. I interact with most of you on a daily basis, I love you and I write for you. Whether that gives me a right to a voice in all of this, I don’t know.
But I have thoughts anyway.
I won’t sit here and pretend I wasn’t dismayed by the results of the election. I won’t say I understand why people voted the way they did. But I will say that over the course of the last few days, I’ve realized I need to. I need to understand why this happened so that I can accept it and be a part of the solution to healing. So I’ve been reading a lot from both sides. Watching interactions on social media and trying to make some sense of it all. And here’s what I’m learning –
Things are not always as they seem.
Take a look at my picture. Tell me what you see. No, wait. I’ll tell you.
You see a white woman with her dog, and you may assume some things. You may assume I’m probably a product of some privilege. That I have led a sheltered life, been given the best and lack for little. You wouldn’t be wrong.
But here’s what you may not know. You may not know that while I was taken home from the hospital by two loving parents who gave me every good thing they had, I was left at that hospital by the woman who gave birth to me.
I was considered an unfortunate mistake, put aside to meet an unknown fate while she went on with her life.
“Ah, that’s a shame,” you say, “but, you had a great upbringing, wonderful parents, it all turned out all right in the end!” Yes, it did. But if you dismiss the way my life began and the impact that initial abandonment had on me, you take away my story.
When you look at my picture, you may also assume I know nothing about racism or hatred or bigotry. That I’ve never been made to feel inferior because of the color of my skin, never been put down or made fun of or been the target of hateful comments. You’d be wrong.
While the circumstances don’t matter so much, the fact is, yes, I know what those things feel like. And in spite of that, I know I’m not immune to judging someone unfairly, for growing weary of what I often perceive as ignorance, for not taking the time to hear somebody’s opinion because it contradicts my own. And each time I do this, I take away their story.
You may think I’m a successful, published author living out her dream. Not everyone gets to this place and I’m one of the lucky ones. And you’d be right. But what you may not know is that I battle fear on an almost daily basis. Fear of failure, of not meeting expectations. I battle insecurity. I take what little self-confidence I have when I wake up in the morning and shred it to bits by the end of the day.
“But oh,” you say, “aren’t you a woman of faith, don’t you put your trust in God and believe He has a good plan for your life?” Yes. I do. I try to. But that doesn’t always make the battle easier. Sometimes it makes it harder. And when you ask me to dismiss my very real feelings, and ‘just have faith’, you take away my story.
Things are not always as they seem.
The election is over and whether you’re happy and relieved or stunned and terrified by the outcome, the world has watched a country tear itself apart. People are hurting. Their fear is real. We need to listen to each other’s stories. I’m not sure how the healing begins, and there is deep work to be done. But all of us, wherever we live, have to put aside differences and beliefs for the greater good of humanity. Because if we carry on this way, if we ignore the core issues driving this great divide that have always existed but have now been given permission to step out of the shadows, hate will win. And that will affect the world, not just America.
We need to ask questions. Listen to one another. Don’t refuse someone else’s words. You may not like them. You may not understand them, but you do need to listen to them. Give others grace and an invitation to tell you their story. Perhaps then they will do the same for you.
Reach out to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Sit down over a meal and listen to each other. Our church did this a few weeks back – we’re a small congregation, but we tend to bounce off each other and once Sunday’s over, that’s pretty much it for a lot of us until next week. So we mixed a whole bunch of people up and went to different homes and met each other where we’re at. And I want to do it again. Because those things are awkward for me. I’m not a talker or a great socializer, but . . . maybe I’ve been missing out. Maybe I need to change that and step out of my comfort zone.
There’s so much more to say, but these words feel inadequate as is, and I don’t know if sharing my thoughts will help. If my voice will even be heard amongst the millions expressing one opinion over another this week and maybe that doesn’t matter. I know I’m just one person and I can’t change what’s going on. I can’t change the world. But I can change me.
So I want to tell you I’m sorry for not hearing you. For not really caring about your story, whatever it may be. And I’d love to hear it now. And maybe, maybe we all start talking to each other again, and really listening, with open minds and open hearts.
Every story has an end, and every end is a new beginning.
What if we could make this end the beginning of something better?
The choice is ours.
We still get to write the story.
Can we at least agree to try to do it together?