The last few weeks have worn me down a bit. You, too? So much is happening in our society right now. So many strong and conflicting opinions. So many harsh exchanges on social media each day.
So many words. So much division.
I’ve added my share of words to the discussion. After a while, those words, both written and read, start to feel inadequate somehow. It seems like they get lost in the torrent of words back-and-forth. They don’t seem to change anything or anyone.
I’ve grown weary of all the words.
So, what to do now?
A couple of Sundays ago, my church had one of our pancake breakfast services. It featured a lot of music – traditional and contemporary, all different styles – centered on the theme of togetherness and hopefulness and perseverance. We had readings from the Bible and from a speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. that reminded us we must not give up. We must fight the fight, run the race, keep the faith.
The music was uplifting, the words were soothing. And there was an image that reminded me of what needs to happen beyond the music and the words.
Hold each other for a little while
On the other side of the room, Ernest was holding Asher. Asher is a few months old and is a regular at our Sunday services. He gets cuddled by various people – until it’s time to change his diaper, of course. Then it’s back to mom.
This time, he wound up with Ernest. He quickly relaxed into those strong arms and slept. Ernest held him tight, reminding him that he was secure and loved.
And that, I thought, is what we need to do.
We need to hold each other for a little while.
Conservative and liberal. Republican and Democrat. Independent and Tea Party. Christian and Muslim. Jew and Hindu. Black and white. Gay and straight. Male and female. Fundamentalist and progressive. Citizen and immigrant. Old and young. Strong and stumbling. Hurting and healing. Fearful and brave.
We just need to hold each other for a little while.
We need to remind each other that we’re all the same in the ways that matter. We’re all afraid, all trying to figure things out, all making mistakes and wrong judgments. We all have our prejudices and our blind spots and our room to grow.
Our words will soften
And maybe if we just hold each other for a little while, we’ll be reminded of it. Our words will soften. We’ll have a chance to move beyond the acrimonious gridlock and begin working together again to transform the world with our love.
Hold each other, just as Someone Else is holding all of us, too.
This doesn’t mean that we put our words away. It’s good and important to express our support for those who are targeted and threatened and marginalized; it’s better yet to seek them out and hold them for a moment by showing them kindness.
What the heck, give the stranger a hug!
It’s especially important to hold those who see things differently. The whole love-the-person-who-thinks-of-you-as-an-enemy thing comes into play. We hold them by treating them with respect in our discussions, choosing our words carefully, and using them kindly.
Perhaps our kindness will be pushed aside. No matter. The important thing is that we offer, and then keep offering. Keep treating others with respect and compassion and love.
Keep holding the world, even when it fears our hug.
Firmly yet kindly
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we abdicate our responsibility to advocate for those who are being treated unjustly. We never stop insisting that everyone must be treated as an equally beloved child of God in all ways. We work with God and put ourselves on the line for this work every day.
But we’re mindful of how we do it.
The next time somebody says something smarmy to us, we don’t respond with equal smarminess. Instead, we reply respectfully.
The next time somebody says something outrageous and unacceptable, we take a moment to hold them in our heart before responding. We recognize them as a flawed and struggling human being, just like us, trying to make sense of things. And then we respond, firmly and respectfully.
We have enough disagreement and not enough hugs going around. And the only way to bridge those disagreements, to lower the walls that we’ve built between ourselves, is to hold each other for a little while.
Let love to hold us and heal us.