Stories that Matter

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. 

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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?



  1. sherribennettblog on November 12, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Excellent!! Well put, my friend. Proud to know you.

    • Cathy West on November 12, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks, Sherri! Likewise. 🙂

  2. Winnie Thomas on November 12, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks for the very thoughtful and thought-provoking post, Cathy. I’m just glad the craziness of the election is over and hopeful that we can put the animosity behind us and work together for the good of our nation. If we can each begin with ourselves and extend love and understanding to others, it will be a start. And, yes, listen to each other’s stories. I think we all need to better understand the concept of compromiseand work together to find suitable solutions to our problems.

    Thanks for being you and for caring so much about others! Hugs, my friend!!

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on November 12, 2016 at 2:55 pm


    I voted for Donald Trump for two main reasons –

    1) As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was appalled by the interview Hillary Clinton gave in which she laughed about getting a child rapist off with a plea-bargain. That alone put her beyond the pale.
    2) Obamacare costs me three months of pain meds. It’s useless, as the only policy I could afford would have a $6500 deductible. Maybe I am assumed to have rich friends, but I sure don’t have that money. So I am fined the equivalent of three months of pain relief for the crime of not being well-to-do. Thanks a LOT for that.

    I have to survive day to day. Climate change and transgender bathroom usage are pretty far down my list of priorities. Clinton made me feel like a cipher; Trump cares.

    • Cathy West on November 12, 2016 at 3:53 pm

      Having never walked in your shoes, I can’t imagine. And that’s my point I guess. I woke up today feeling a little better. A little more willing to hear and really listen instead of sticking my fingers in my ears. Because there has to be a reason the man won. I hate that his campaign seemed to run on hate, but I can’t believe that everyone who voted for him feels and acts the way some of his supporters seem to. I know there are deeper reasons and I’m willing to explore them. I am not willing to agree with Trump about anything he’s said at this point, but I am praying he will do the things half the country believes he will do. Time will tell.

  4. merrypenny7 on November 12, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story . Its so important for us to listen to each other & learn from each other. I too voted for Trump. Even if there are things we don’t agree with, we owe a good example to those younger of how to listen and consider one another. Name calling & distruction is not good; more pain doesn’t help.
    My prayer is that we would learn much from what we just went through and do better.

    • Cathy West on November 12, 2016 at 3:57 pm

      I think the US has a real opportunity to do some serious soul-searching at this point. We all do. Whether Trump delivers or destroys, it’s really the people that make America great, not the president. I pray for every American that they use this time to try to seek a better understanding of their neighbor, protect peace and love one another no matter what comes. To deny the reality of fear and uncertainty that so many are feeling this week is wrong. My hope is that solutions will be found quickly to make everyone feel safe again.

  5. rbclibrary on November 12, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    Thank you Cathy for your thoughtful and beautifully expressed post. I had become dismayed over the last few months by the attitudes expressed by my overseas friends. That somehow if I voted for Donald Trump I was the worst kind of person or barring that, simply ignorant. I was dismayed by fellow Christians expressing the belief that if I voted for him I wasn’t really saved. I am a flawed person, but I work very hard so that various -ist and -phobe designations cannot be attached to me. I was a never-Trumper early on. But as I have often learned, one should never say never.

    I voted for Trump because when the ACA came into effect, my family lost its health insurance because the professional group my husband belonged to didn’t lobby hard enough to be labeled a “valid buying group”.

    I voted for Trump because the architect of the ACA stated that the 3 million people on the individual market that were having their premiums double in 2017 didn’t matter because people on the exchange were only experiencing 25% rate hikes. (Yes my husband and I are looking at a 100%+ increase in our insurance premiums with only one insurer left in Georgia.)

    I voted for Trump because Hillary Clinton stated that she believed an abortion should be allowed at any point in a woman’s pregnancy regardless of reason.

    I voted for Trump because when Hillary Clinton was questioned how she would determine her nominees for the Supreme Court, she never mentioned the Constitution.

    I voted early and did not feel the elation that many times comes after casting a ballot. I was as stunned by the election results as anyone. But I have a new relief as well. I am hopeful that the regulations that strangle my husband’s small business will in some way be reigned in. I am hopeful that we can continue to grow our business and hire new employees.

    I love America and am thankful that God placed me here. And I am heartened by the number of Christians committed to pray for our new leaders.

    Thanks for allowing my feeble expression.

    • Cathy West on November 12, 2016 at 5:11 pm

      Thank you so much for your honest expression and sharing your truth with us. As I have to keep reminding myself, I don’t live there and I don’t know all the issues. But I know I have to at least understand where so many of you are coming from. Honestly, had I vote, I don’t know how I would have voted. But I know my disdain for Trump will not help anything at this point. I’m not sure I could have believed him enough to dismiss the things he’s said and done, but the other side was no better in my opinion either. A very very tough election season. But now that it’s over, my prayer is to see the country move forward in positive ways, for the violence and hatred to cease and for a willingness to understand one another to outweigh everything else. And even though I don’t live there, I will do my part in trying to reach out and understand things I don’t yet.

  6. Carlton Meeke on November 13, 2016 at 7:37 am

    Hi Cathy knowing you from being married to your Cousin Andrea & living in Northern Ireland watching the election result over here mirrors the Brexit vote that sent out a clear message that people want change. Think it was obvious that Hillarys corruption scandal followed her & the result seemed to reflect that showing that Americans also wanted change. I am a Police Officer & have been for nearly 30 years. I have seen many evil acts in our small country over the years including attempted Murder on myself& have had to stomach the murders of Police Officers & Soldiers here over the years, & having to watch these persons being placed in the head of Government here. Some Democracy. 🙁

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