When people are young and starting out in life, they tend to dream big, and often believe there is nothing they cannot do. They are able to envision a future world in which they achieve their dreams, and the world is a better place because of it. They are often passionately outspoken about the things in the world that they believe are wrong. They want to change it and make it better for themselves and for everyone else.
I think many people I know have been there, and believed that. I did. But, somewhere along the way, we settled. We started to accept the status quo, and believe we really couldn't make a difference. We began to be satisfied with just quietly living our own lives, making our own money, raising our own families, and not getting too involved with everything else that's going on around us. We withdrew our energy and interest from passionately caring about how the world is treating others, and we settled for making sure we get our piece of the pie, and our family is doing okay.
It feels like the current election season is part of the settlement we negotiated when we decided to become a society of individuals. If it's good enough for me, it's good enough. If it's good enough for my family, it's good enough. If a few friends are okay with what's going on, it's good enough. If the best possible candidates cannot get on the ballot, it's good enough. As we sit on the sidelines and observe the fray, listen to the campaigning, and try to sort through the VOLUMES of information to find unbiased facts to help us become informed and intelligent participants in this society, it can feel overwhelming. Especially if we don't like what we see, and want real change that benefits us collectively.
Apathy is the price of accepting such a settlement. It is tempting to withdraw into our individuals homes, shut our individual doors, and concentrate only on ourselves. Our votes don't seem to matter, and people get angry with each other when they disagree. It's so much easier to ignore than to participate.
But settling for the status quo, becoming more individualistic, and retreating into apathy are not acceptable choices. They are easy choices - and they got us to this point. And getting all enraged and emotional over an election won't fix the problems we face collectively, as a society.
I think we CAN do something. I think we CAN make change, but it's going to take time. And it's not going to come without a cost - and it won't happen because of politics. It will happen because of people. One of the greatest things about America is that grassroots movements can bring about great change.
We need to figure out how to bring community to our own local communities. We need to make room in our lives for people who are different. We need to try to help people we can help. I'm not talking about buying a Starbucks coffee for the person in line behind you or me. I'm not saying it's wrong to be kind to a stranger, but paying it forward in that way does nothing to build or strengthen our connections to other human beings as human beings. We need to stop and talk to people. Look them in the eye. Figure out a way we can get to know people who are different from us. Try hard to understand why they are what they are, and why they do what they do.
Connecting. We need to start in our immediate neighborhoods, and see how many connections we can make. If we open our hearts to really caring about other people's lives, we can find ways our community can work together to become more of a community. We should swallow our pride, fear, apathy and whatever else stands in the way, take risks, and try something - a community dinner or picnic, maybe. We should go out of our way to invite people we don't know, and include people who are typically excluded from our circle of friends.
People respond to love and acceptance. It's time we opened our eyes and our lives to the people around us - and stopped settling for being a society of one - and become a society of millions, connected by our humanity and linked by community and caring brought about by knowing other human beings. It's a big task, but it beats settling for good enough.