If Tomorrow Never Comes – Engelbert Humperdinck
Few days ago, I slipped on a wet floor, fell, and hit my head — very hard. Instead of going to the ER, I resisted, angering my daughter. I finally relented when my eye surgeon insisted that I should go. A CT scan showed a couple of brain bleeds, and I was transferred to the ICU in a local trauma center. Praise God, they were such that they only required monitoring, anti-seizure medication, and pain medication for the horrific headaches. I have to use a walker for 2-3 more days, and rest in order to allow my brain to absorb the bleed. I follow up with the neurologist surgeon in two weeks, and hopefully the incident will be behind me. However, at the beginning, I had the very thoughts as the lyrics in the song, and with them such immediacy. Largely, I concluded that “they know.” Yet, I will never take it for granted.
Just yesterday, I was released from the ICU of a local hospital after a fall that resulted in a couple of brain bleeds, “Praise God, ” they only required monitoring, and no medical intervention. Frightening though it was, it was not as serious as it could have been.
As a way to distract my mind from the intractable headache (One that made some of my migraines seem like a walk in a park.), I mindlessly checked out a website, www.nextdoor.com to see what is happening in our neighborhood. It is a nationwide website that allows over 180,000 local neighborhoods to interact with one another, and to share both vital and run-of-the-mill information. I am not on the site very often, so I looked forward to see what was happening in the 29 neighborhoods surrounding me.
I came across a rather innocuous post about a missing political yard sign. The person who posted it made the “mistake” of identifying it as a sign supporting a politician from a certain political party. (I am not even identifying the politician or the party, because those facts are immaterial.) The post resulted in many comments, some of which rife with undisguised rancor, and unfounded accusations, which devolved into an “us” vs “them” environment. Although I was so exhausted that I could barely keep my eyes open, I was incredulous as to how a benign post (except for the word naming a certain politician) could cause seemingly intelligent human beings to stoop to discrediting, trivializing, and condescending another human being, simply because of their perceived, or even real, different belief. It appeared that the animus is directed largely at people that they don’t even know.
After reading that post and some of the replies, I was compelled, in spite of my exhaustion, mental confusion, headache, and overall crappy state, to dictate this post, no matter how long it took. In response to the obvious digression from an unintended partisan discussion, to a series of unsubstantiated and unfounded jabs against the opposing party, the original postor offered to meet anyone, regardless of his or her political persuasion, for a sit down, face-to-face, heart to heart discussion and exchange of ideas. Until I choose to stop reading, the curt, obviously partisan, off topic, and mean spirited replies vastly outnumbered those agreeing to the offer.
As I have for the past few days, while lying in ICU, I thought of my grandchildren, and in this case, of the rancorous environment that we, as adults, are exposing them to, and my heart ached. Is this the new normal that I wish them to inherit? Do I want them to believe that those who think and look differently, are evil, and are to be reviled? Do I want them to believe that they are in it for themselves, and should not be concerned about the plight of others? Do I want them to believe that they should do anything that it takes, regardless of the harm to others, to achieve their goals? Do I want them to believe that they are more special, more precious or more important than the child seated beside him, or do I want him to know that, in God’s eyes, we are all made in his image, and loved the same? As I answered these questions, my tribe, my community, became clear.
I seek a group of diverse (i.e., based on, among other things, gender, race, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political preference, marital status, income, age, disability, rank in the social hierarchy, beliefs and more) individuals, who desire to interact with one another in a civil, non-confrontational or accusatory, and most importantly, respectful manner. I seek those who have no need to surround themselves with clones or carbon copies of themselves, but who long to grow, learn and expand their horizons through interactions with those from cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, lifestyles, and life experiences that differ from their own.
I seek others who believe that there is no reason that those who hold different views should be unable to sit down to peaceably and amicably engage in discussions, even about weighty matters, without the need to resort to the denigration, belittlement, ostracism, or disparagement of others, simply because of opposing beliefs and views. I seek those who believe that we are equals, who are entitled to her/his own beliefs, and that we are free to exercise and express those beliefs without fear of being subjected to wanton criticism, vitriol, physical, mental or emotional harm, or any other adverse action.
I seek those who remember that this country was founded by a band of immigrants who sought refuge from oppression, and for the right to practice their chosen beliefs. They sought freedom. Our ancestors were not the original inhabitants of this country, but that is a topic for another day. Everyone of us is borne of immigrants. I seek those who believe in the protections afforded by the First Amendment, though initially intended to allow each of us the right to practice our chosen religion, affords us the right to express our beliefs in a legal, amicable, and peaceable manner. I seek others who long for the times when we were able to do so without fear of retribution or the loss of treasured relationships. I also seek those who strive, as the Second Commandment states, to love your neighbor as you love yourself, which should be practiced universally, and not solely by the Christians among us. Admittedly, it is far from an easy undertaking, but one worth pursuing. Finally, I seek a community of those who abhors the current division, the “us” vs “them” environment, in favor of one that proclaims “we the people,” which is all inclusive. I seek a community who refuses to accept the current environment as our “new normal.”
I am still a bit confused as a result of my head injury, but I felt compelled to dictate this right now, because it is much too important to put off. When my end arrives, and as for us all, it is inevitable, I have no intention of being remembered as an intractable proponent of views that served to tear down, instead of build up, and that stirred dissension for the wrong reasons. I have no desire for my children or grandchildren to model hate, division, lies, fear, or any number of other negative qualities, for the sake of politics — any politics. I have no intention of leaving behind such a legacy.
I am a perfectly imperfect person who struggles every day to be a source of light, love, and hope. I make mistakes, and do and say things that I shouldn’t, but I regret them. As a Christian, I am a sinner who strives to do and be better, and the politics of the day, plays no role in those efforts. I intend to leave a well of love, compassion, fair dealing, empathy, community service, trust, honesty, sensitivity, action, and more for my children and grandchildren to inherit. I want to teach them to stand for what is right, even though they may be ridiculed or stand alone, and to speak for those who cannot do so for themselves. For that is what it comes down to, doing what is best for the greater good.
God is not interested in how much money we earn, the clothes we wear, our spotless lawns, our net worth, the car that we drive. or the lofty position that we hold. None of it matters! It all comes down to our good thoughts and acts, and to the degree to which we strive to be and do good, for others. Having been recently reminded of the brevity of this life, I do not chose to meet my maker, trying to explain or justify my bad behavior towards any of God’s creations, for any reason, especially, politics. Party politics should never be allowed to supersede our basic humanity.
Initially, I decided against writing this post because of fear, retribution, threats or ill will, against myself or those that I love. Yet, how can I teach my grandchildren to do the right thing, cowering in the shadows? In dictating this post, I have tried to walk the middle path. Yet, I have no doubt that some will take issue with what I’ve said, and how I’ve said it. Although I have firm beliefs and clear opinions, I wrote this without the inclination or need to point a finger at one side or the other. The thing is that they are wholly irrelevant when speaking of qualities such as respect, civility, trust, honesty, compassion, love, and selflessness. Still, I am well aware that if one searches long enough, they will find what they believe supports her or his stance, but I cannot allow that to sway my actions.
Although I am charged with rest to promote healing, am unable to drive, as soon as possible, I look forward to a gathering of everyone who believes as I do, party affiliation aside. Until we are able to meet one another face-to-face, I wish each of you good health, peace of mind-body-spirit, happiness, laughter, unity and love. I remind you to “love your neighbor, as yourself.” Imagine how that would change the climate in this country? If you are like me, you will undoubtedly stumble, but then, you pick yourself up, and begin again.