I’ve been thinking so much lately about what can bring us together and what can bridge our deep divide. All kinds of ideas have come to mind.
Some are so very basic, like “vote! vote! vote!” It’s a gift and it’s our civic duty, so let’s exercise that right on November 6 (which just happens to be my birthday).
I’ve also thought about the importance of seeking out our neighbors. It’s such a simple idea, and yet, it’s an important step in building community, connection and common ground.
So are Sunday dinners. I’ve talked about the power of them before and it’s an idea that I’m really hoping will catch on. Invite people from all different walks of life — people from different races, people who hold different political views, people who have different life experiences than yours. After all, if we want to bring people together, then starting in our own homes is a powerful place to start.
Starting is often the hardest part, but take the first step in that direction. Utter the words, “I’d like to invite you to my table.” Be open. Listen. Breathe. Allow yourself to be surprised by what you hear from others (maybe even from people in your own family). Be brave enough to rethink your own positions, given where our country is at this moment. We all have room to bend, reevaluate and compromise.
Now, some of you might be thinking, “These ideas are all fine and good, Maria, but we’re going to need something big, something dramatic, something country-shifting to really heal this divide.” Well, yes, I’ve thought about that too.
I’ve thought about joining together with others to start a national independent party. I’ve thought about gathering all those who want an alternative to our two-party system and forming a party that reflects the ideals of what I call “our purple nation.” That’s what you get when you combine red and blue: purple.
We’d propose principles like national service or a simplified tax structure where everyone pays. Yes, the wealthy would pay more, but everyone would be doing their part. We’d offer accessible and affordable health care for everyone, especially the elderly. We’d make Alzheimer’s research a top priority. We’d create innovative schools that are safe, inspiring and that seek to educate the whole student — mentally, physically, financially and emotionally. We’d care for our common home. (Yes, I know we’ve already made some progress on all these fronts in our country, but I think we still have a ways to go.) I could go on and on with ideas like the ones above — which I believe are non-partisan, sensible, rational and achievable — but I’m sure you could as well.
Then, as I was contemplating all this last week, a friend sent me a video. I had no idea what to expect when I hit play, but the experience moved me so much that it shifted my entire focus for this week’s Sunday Paper.
The video made me step back and contemplate the notion that, if I was truly happy with me — If I truly liked who I was and where I was — then I would be bringing that sentiment to all relationships in my life. I would approach others with compassion, with respect, and with love, and I would be able to do that because I would be good with who I am and where I was.
If I was actually content, then I would always be approaching the world and my fellow human beings with kindness, instead of anger. With acceptance, instead of judgment. With patience and calm, instead of anxiety. Yes, I do try to approach the world with these qualities each day, but as we all know, it isn’t always easy. That possibility was confirmed for me in another life-shifting moment I had this week when I did my Architects of Change Live conversation with Don Miguel Ruiz, author of the bestselling book
“The Four Agreements” and now the author of a new book called “The Three Questions.” During our conversation, Ruiz pointed out to me that each of us is the president of our own country, which is ourselves. He said that each and every one of us should be asking, “What kind of president we want to be?” Do we, he asked, want to be abusive, mean, controlling and judgmental? Or do we want to be diplomatic, strong, generous and caring? Do we want to see ourselves as healers or dividers? Do we want to see ourselves operating from a place of fear, or from the belief that we all live in a common home with common hopes and dreams?
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