"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Politics and Positive Possibilities—Fantasy or Reality?

by Micky Wolf

Reading the papers or watching the news these days can weary the spirit. Why? Amidst the truly heart-breaking reports of disasters and various calamities, natural and otherwise, are countless sound bites of politicians taking pot shots at one another. Accusatory tones. Derogatory innuendoes. The rhetoric and passion is all around us. It can be tempting to jump into the fray and ratchet the volume and intensity even higher. 

There is little doubt that as a nation we are awash in problems and challenges. The reality is no one person or group has all the answers or resources, intellectual or material, to fix things. Every four years, as the republic and democracy upon which we stand as a nation, a bunch of folks either spend a lot of time and a whole lot of money trying to keep their elected office, or in wresting one away from someone else. Over time, this politicking ritual has expanded to the point that one set of officials have barely taken office before the next round begins all over again.

I’m an optimist. I truly believe in the goodness that resides within each of us. Considering that totally disconnecting from all forms of media and communication is neither possible nor prudent, what if you and I could take one small step in helping to restore unity and a true spirit of collegiality?

A few possibilities for consideration:
  • Drop our hands—sit on them if necessary. Pointing fingers, literally or figuratively, doesn’t change anything. All it does is highlight the pointer’s preoccupation with trying to find someone else to blame for the mess.
  • Learn ways to speak [God’s] Truth in Love by acknowledging a variety of perspectives without judging others. Having a different sense of things does not imply right or wrong; it simply means the window through which we view the world has a lot to do with where it is situated in the first place.
  • Be more kind and considerate to everyone we encounter, including the person staring back from the mirror. Slowing things down long enough to give or receive a word of encouragement or a thank you is a laudable behavior for any time, any generation. Such a seemingly simple gesture may literally part the clouds of worry or fear hanging over another person and we will be blessed as well.
  • Allow God to direct our frustration and anger through life-giving action rather than as added fuel to already simmering fires. Case in point: Mother Teresa hated the way the poor were treated, however, she choose to love each one she encountered with the precious resources available to her at the time. Sometimes that meant a well-placed word to those responsible for perpetuating the degradation. However, more often than not, it meant holding a shaking hand, embracing a lonely soul, or being present with a person in their pain and suffering.
  • Talk less. Listen. Then listen some more.  Not a new idea by any means, but maybe the most important consideration. It is amazing how many times we hear what others are saying without actually listening to what they are trying to convey. Giving our complete and sincere attention to the speaker not only respects them as a person, but allows for the real possibility they likely have something important to share with us. Through our willingness to fully listen we learn things we did not know; we gain understanding we did not have; we become greater as a whole because we acknowledge, receive and encourage those we otherwise might have judged as ‘less than’ us. In the end, all of us thrive, flourish and become more caring and compassionate.
The needs, hopes and dreams we carry within us as clay vessels can represent the best or the worst of the beauty, diversity and complexity that have made us a great nation. May we choose anew to remember, believe and behave in a manner worthy of God’s Truth—that each and all of us are unique beings created in His image and likeness.

There are many possible solutions to the long list of problems we face. But God help us if we continue to focus on a “what’s wrong with the other guy” mentality rather than “how can I personally make a positive contribution to improving the quality of life”. Do not underestimate what you have to offer.

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