I don’t know what to write about. It feels pointless. The world has gone crazy. I imagine God—or Atlas, Titan god of endurance—trying to shoulder this world and keep it from the abyss, and it’s so heavy. Flags fly at half-mast across my small town. There are so many tragedies that could represent, I have no idea which it is. I wonder if they will ever rise to the top again.
People are afraid of those whose experience is different from their own, and they act out of that fear rather than from the love that was intended for us. I’m fearful too. My son joined the police department in a small eastern city this week, a pocket of progressiveness in one of the scariest states in the country. I’m proud of him. I’m afraid for him.
Everyone desperately wants something to be different and they have no idea how to make it happen. They grab at anything, however outlandish. Witness the vote in England to leave the European Union and the movement in America to put an unqualified billionaire in the White House just because he’s not a politician. They don’t see that he stands against everything that has made this country a beacon over the past 240 years. The supporters of these votes are not mentally ill people with guns, they are just people looking for change and they grasp whatever comes along without considering that different isn’t necessarily better.
In the 2016 state legislative session there have been more than 160 anti-LGBT bills introduced in 31 states (Advocate). The supporters are not mentally ill people with guns either (well, most of them aren’t), they are just people afraid of difference. (The irony is they are the same people who want something different.) I am a lesbian, though invisible, and I have two very young grandsons being raised by two of the most amazing mothers I have ever known. I’m glad we live in Washington where the bills have been consistently struck down, but I can’t help being a little afraid for my grandsons and their mothers. I pray the madness of fear and hate toward the LGBT community will end before my grandsons and their peers realize they are “different.” I hope it moves more quickly than civil rights for African Americans. I hope it doesn’t last as long as religious persecution has. When will we ever learn?
But I also read of all the hopeful things people are doing. Tiny acts of love and kindness and acceptance of all God’s people and creatures, and my hope is restored. Because that is how true change happens. For every act of violence there are a multitude of acts of kindness and love. We don’t read about them in the paper or watch them on TV or hear about them on the radio. They are shared in blog posts and on Facebook.
They are strangers of different colors smiling across restaurant tables at each other. They are straight people and gay people, Muslims and Jews and Christians having conversations in the gym and at worship. They are a dozen languages co-mingling on the trails at Mt. Rainier. They are people emptying trash cans into the recycling dumpsters at the transfer station in my small town, taking care of the world the best they can. They are adults teaching children to love and to embrace difference. They are amateur photographers posting photos of laughing children, flowers, fresh vegetables, and rainbows. They are hundreds of thousands of people who DO know how to make a difference, just by loving the earth and all that is in it.
There have been many hopeful quotes on Facebook in the days since Istanbul, Baghdad, Orlando, St. Paul, Baton Rouge, Dallas. My favorite is this one:
“All great changes are preceded by chaos.” Deepak Chopra
May it be so. I hope it’s not much longer.
Meanwhile, in the midst of this chaos, I quietly marked the beginning of my fifth year here on the hill with my mother (more on that next week). I have not told her about the happenings in the world. She was born 100 years ago in the middle of World War I, lived a childhood in the chaos of the Depression, was a young woman in the pre-civil rights South, spent the first two and a half years of her marriage separated from her husband by World War II. In the 70 years since they were reunited it sometimes seems like nothing has changed in the world. I hope she can leave this life believing her love for the earth and its inhabitants made a difference. It did to her family.
As I move into this next year with my mother, one of my intentions is to get outside every morning before I go upstairs to greet her. Even if it’s just a few moments on the patio in my pajamas. Being outside—breathing, feeling, smelling the freshness of the air, looking at the curve of the earth and the greenness of the firs and the maples that have been here longer than I’ve been alive—reminds me why I am here, both on the hill and in the world.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
What can I do to counter the greed and hatred and fear in the world? I can refuse to be afraid. I can be filled with light, at least as much of the time as I can (I’m going to work on that). I can shine. I can love the world. I can stay hopeful. Is it enough? No. But it’s what I have.