We all hurt right now. Our whole world grieves the loss of what once was. The present turmoil and divisiveness weigh us down. Each of us is struggling.
But what of the children? How are they doing? How will they remember this time?
They look to us to keep them safe, to care for them, to put their needs first. They don’t understand the greater turmoil. They see, keenly, what is right in front of them. What is that?
While we may not have a ton of control over world events, we do have control over how we treat the littlest among us. Consider the profound effect your words and actions have on children just starting to be introduced to the world. Temper your anger, your frustration, your dismay. There is no harm in having a full range of emotions, and teaching children that they, too, will be subject to sadness and disappointment, frustration and anger, bewilderment and helplessness as they age. But never let them forget that you love them and are with them and that you will stay in their corners come what may.
In her delightful book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gotlieb relays this encounter with her therapist:
“I’m reminded,” he begins, “of a famous cartoon. It’s of a prisoner, shaking the bars, desperately trying to get out–but to his right and left, it’s open, no bars.”
He pauses, allowing the image to sink in.
“All the prisoner has to do is walk around. But still, he frantically shakes the bars. That’s most of us. We feel completely stuck, trapped in our emotional cells, but there’s a way out–as long as we’re willing to see it.”
We cling to what we think is an agonizing choice between A and B and don’t even see choices C-Z. Sometimes we have the choice not to make a choice at all, to not be part of the conflict. Sometimes choices are knee-jerk reactions that maybe, if we had just paused, we will regret. Sometimes we need to step back and consider.
If only all of our choices could be made from a place of hope, seeing the best in ourselves and our neighbors, looking to build up rather than tear down, reaching for healing rather than harm.
So much seems out of reach. So many problems have yet to be solved. So many people do not get along. And yet, when we step back and take a long view, so many seemingly impossible things have been accomplished in just a lifetime–anti-biotics, flight, space travel, computers, internet. And though social justice clearly does not move in a straight line, we have seen significant advances in human rights that our great-grandparents may have been unable to predict or even hope for.
So what to make of this? It’s important to keep fighting the good fight even when the odds seem insurmountable. Keep striving for peace, for social justice, for a more equitable world. We may not see the dramatic change now, but when someone looks back at our time here on Earth, they will see we didn’t stop pushing forward and, with that long view, there was continued progress ever forward.