“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” —Jackie Robinson
I've Been Thinking...
I’ve found myself struggling to keep up with all that’s been going on lately. It seems like just when I read one breaking news piece, a hundred more come my way. Just when I answer 10 emails, 50 more seem to pop up in my inbox. The threads seem to grow longer and longer, and I find myself getting lost in them.
Then I go out of the house and someone says to me, “Did you hear this?” or “Did you see that?” More often than not, I find myself saying, “No, what happened?”
As a long-time journalist, this is a weird place to find myself. I used to always be the one who knew everything that was going on. I was often the first to know, but not anymore. These days, I can spend an hour in a music class with my granddaughter, and by the time I walk out, the whole world can seem like it has changed. I can go for a walk without my phone and come back to mayhem.
This past year, I signed up for several news outlets’ emails thinking it would be a good way to read more in-depth pieces. But then they started sending me daily briefings and constant updates that piled up in my inbox. They pile up like books sitting next to my bed, reminding me of everything I haven’t read, learned, or reflected upon.
“Good God,” I’ve found myself saying on more than one occasion. Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed? Is anyone else having trouble keeping up? Is anyone else raging at the TV? Is anyone else looking for a way out?
That’s why I wasn’t totally surprised when I read this piece this week that said people are pulling away from the news in record numbers. For so many people, the news these days mimics the weather. It’s just way too hot out there. It’s just way too much. The deluge never cools us off or brings us together. It just makes us feel further removed from one another and from ourselves.
I try to keep all of that front of mind when I write this column each week. If there is something important going on in our world that I can offer some perspective on, I try to do that. But I’m also cognizant of the fact that you can get the news from a thousand different sources.
What I’m hopeful that you find here is a place of belonging. I want this publication to be a place of hope and acceptance. I want it to be a place devoid of judgment, a place where you can learn something new from the many wise, reflective thinkers who write here. I want you to have your mind activated and your heart opened. That’s no small mission. Yet as I prepare for my annual August sabbatical, that’s what I’m thinking about. I’m thinking about how we as a people and as a nation can rediscover our sense of belonging, our shared sense of mission, and our shared sense of home.
This past week, I listened to a speech my mother gave at the very first Special Olympics games in Chicago. She spoke to an almost empty stadium about bravery, compassion, and getting in the arena. But her last few words are what really stuck with me.
She said to the athletes and the volunteers: “Many of you will win. But even more important, I know you will be brave and bring credit to your parents and your country.”
Think about those words. How many among us today think about bringing credit to our country? More often than not, I hear people talk about what their country isn’t doing for them, what their job isn’t doing for them, or what their family didn’t do for them. My hope is that we can begin to change that. Call me naive, but my hope is that some way, somehow, we can summon ourselves to think about being a credit to our country, our jobs, and our families.
Sure, it’s wonderful to be in the arena, but to what end? So we can be the first to be in the know? (So much of what comes at us isn’t worth knowing anyway.) Do we want to be in the arena just so we can destroy one another? Judge one another? Demonize one another? Isn’t the whole point of getting into the arena to make it better and to make the path just a little bit easier for others?
Maybe people are turning away from the news because they are sick and tired of doom and gloom. They are sick and tired of being pitted against one another, tired of being told how bad others are, exhausted from hearing how hopeless the country is. The vast majority of us want to make our families and our country proud. That’s not the right of just one political party. We can all strive to do that. Why else are we here?
As a long-time journalist, I know there is a bigger story out there that the news isn’t telling. It’s the story of those who want to be in the arena and make it better for others. It’s the story of those who want to make their families and their country proud. It’s the story of millions and millions of people who get up every day feeling grateful and optimistic, and who couldn't care less about getting credit for what they do. They just want to share the credit with our larger family.
So on this Sunday morning, allow yourself to sit with that truth. Don’t worry about keeping up with all that’s coming your way. No one can. It’s all too much. On this day, think about what you really need to know and what you don’t. Streamline what you allow into your mind and your heart. Digital minimalism is a thing, and if you can practice it, it will open up some space for you to dream about ways that you can make our country better. Allow yourself the space to believe that you are indeed here for a purpose way larger than yourself. You are a credit to humanity. Thank you for being here in the arena!
God knows humanity and your country need you now more than ever. Let’s go.
Dear God, in a world that is inundated with updates and new trends, help me to minimize my distractions and lean into my purpose. Show me how to be a credit to myself, my family, and my country. Allow me the space to be a beautiful part of moving humanity forward. Amen.
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