I feel like 2016 has been a rough year. It has been a rough year for me, personally. It has been a rough year for my family. It has been a rough year for my immediate community. It has been a rough year for our state. It has been a rough year for our nation. And, it has been a rough year for the world. Hurts. Struggles. Violence. Protests. Elections. Refugees. Wars. There is lots of bad stuff going on out there.
This week, especially, there are many hurting people around me. And, I would guess, around you as well. No matter what your political leanings or what candidate you voted for, I would hope that each of us in this nation (and many people around the world as well) have dealt with the goings on of the world with sobriety this week (figuratively, if not literally!). I would hope that, no matter what side of the line you find yourself on, you would be a bit heavy-hearted with me this week. There are many people in our nation who are hurting. People who are scared. People who are in mourning and are deeply wounded. Many of them are people that I love and care about deeply. And that fact hurts my heart!
There are many things that have made this year memorably rough a variety of levels. A major one that comes to mind for me, as far as my immediate community goes, is the shooting of Philando Castile. On July 6th of this year, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer less than 2 miles from our home. This happened in my immediate neighborhood. Our community was thrust into the national spotlight overnight. Many people, even Twin Cities residents, had no idea where Falcon Heights was before this summer. Now people all over the country recognize the name of my community. My dad, one of our daughters and I took a bike ride the day after the shooting to join the gathering of people who were mourning, protesting, remembering and holding vigil at the location where Philando (Mr. Phil as he was known at the elementary school where he worked) was killed. It was an emotional and meaningful thing to be a part of. Many tears. Hugs between strangers. A heartfelt word to my young daughter from a black woman thanking her for coming to share in the "hard" of the moment. There was less anger than I expected; more deep sorrow.
The following week, the elementary school that our kids attend organized a gathering and peaceful walk to the memorial to show our concern over the violence happening in so many different communities in our nation, but specifically the violence that happened right outside our doors. It was a beautiful gathering of caring, concerned community members and I'm so thankful that we were able to be a part of it. It fells good and right to do something when you feel so overwhelmed and helpless. The three teachers from our school who organized the gathering are amazing people. Amazing leaders. Amazing teachers. I am very thankful to know them and have them influencing my kids! My talented friend Shaina (who has a fabulous name . . . even though it is spelled "wrong") took some very moving pictures of the event, which you can see here (see if you can spot any of our family members in the photos).
Although I live very close close to the location where the shooting took place, it is not a part of my normal, daily driving route. Because of that, it becomes easier to forget with time. More than 4 months have passed now and many people have moved on and forgotten at this point. However, one of our kids has a weekly appointment that brings us down the road where the memorial is, and so, on our drive home from our appointment every Thursday we drive by that spot. We remember. There is still a very large memorial on the side of the road. There still are people who remember and have not forgotten. People who are still hurting.
This week there are many people that I know personally and care about deeply who are very sad and hurt and disappointed in our nation. They are mourning and they are scared. Scared for themselves. Scared for their children. Scared for people that they love. This makes my heart feel heavy! I am a highly sensitive, deeply feeling person, so I realize I am in tune to the pain of others in a different way than people of a different personality type are, but I would hope that the deep sorrow of many in our nation would bring sorrow, in some degree, to each of us. Regardless of who I voted for, regardless of who you voted for, there are people around you who are hurting and I would hope that that fact would make your heart heavy too. I also realized that there are many people who are very happy about the outcome of the election (obviously, since Trump won), but I would hope that even those who are celebrating the victory of their candidate could be sympathetic and, hopefully even, empathetic to those around them who aren't feeling celebratory right now. It is a hard time for our nation. I realize I haven't been alive for all that many presidential elections relative to people that I know with many more years of life and wisdom, but I feel like this one is unprecedented in the level of angst and division that the outcome of the election has brought to the people of America. It feels different to me this time around. More divisive. Heavier. I, for one, hope to act in ways that bring peace and healing and a feeling of being loved to those who are hurting. Smile at a stranger. Be civil to those who you come in contact with who hold political views that differ from yours. Love your kids. Hug your friends. Make strides for peace in ways that you are able.
I want to be a safe place for both those who are happy with the state of our country as well as those who are hurting. I am very aware that I have friends and family members in both camps. People that I love and respect fall on both sides of this struggle and that makes things tricky, but not impossible.
But through all of the hard and the sad and the horrible, there are also many, many glimmers of good in the world. The world holds much hope! On Wednesday morning, after the election results were tallied and in, I went to school with my elementary kids to volunteer, as I do each Wednesday. The chatter of elementary school kids this particular morning was more interesting and insightful than it is most "normal" Wednesday mornings. The toast with cookie butter (yum!) and coffee and the amazingly beautiful sunrise that I witnessed that morning paired with the laughter of kids and seeing a student that was pretty discouraged a couple weeks ago flash me a smile (rare for this particular kid -- at least in my experience) and volunteering in a kindergarten classroom (gotta love kindergarteners!) were all good for my heavy heart! So while there is hard in the world and sad in the world and sorrow in the hearts of many of us, there is also so very much wonderful! The warmth of the sun on your back in November, the crunch of leaves underfoot, snuggling, health, newborn babies, meaningful work, laughter with friends, coffee, hugs, a beautiful sunset, people who love you through your yuck, naps, catching up on laundry, online shopping, a good book, music that moves you . . . be on the lookout for the good things in life. There are so very many. The seemingly little, insignificant ones are my favorite! Enjoy them. It's ok to be sad and it's ok to mourn and it's ok to hurt, but try not to forget about all the good that is still in the world. As Glennon Doyle Melton likes to say, "Life is brutiful!" Simultaneously brutal and beautiful. Intertwined. That's how it has always been and I imagine that is how it always will be! I'm going to try my hardest to focus on the beautiful and the good. It's easier sometimes than others, but it's always a good goal.