The 2020 election magnified just how severely our country is divided. Regardless of political affiliation, deep down, we all know we need unity. We all know we need to heal. Our country is at its best when we are the "United" States of America.
With much of our division being politically routed, it will be difficult for leadership to pull us all together. We have to take the healing process into our own hands. Each and every one of us needs to make a conscious effort to heal. But how? How do WE heal the country? Believe it or not, it's as simple as being kind. And, as cheesy as that may sound to many of you, it's true.
Being kind isn’t about digging deep into your pockets for charity: it’s simply showing compassion and thoughtfulness towards others - something we all can do. But, it's especially effective if it's toward people who are different from ourselves - different beliefs or opinions, culturally different, difference in age, etc.
Kindness is literally contagious. Did you know, the positive effects of kindness are experienced in the brain of everyone who witnessed the act, improving their mood and making them significantly more likely to “pay it forward.” This means one good deed in a crowded area can create a domino effect and improve the day of dozens of people! And, being kind doesn't just heal others, there is scientific proof that being kind heals our own bodies too. Just as exercise releases endorphins that makes us happier. Acts of kindness produces oxytocin, sometimes referred to as the ‘love hormone’ which helps lower our blood pressure and improve our overall heart-health. Oxytocin also increases our self-esteem and optimism which improves our overall mental health. Our bodies were created with a need to be kind. You can view more of the health benefits of kindness at https://www.dartmouth.edu/wellness/emotional/rakhealthfacts.pdf
The Power of Acts of Kindness video shown above was a story featured on CBS news nearly three years ago (pre-pandemic), but its powerful and inspirational message will warm your heart still today!
Last week, a North Dakota community rallied together to help a farmer who was unable to harvest his crops after having a heart attack. Dozens of the farmer’s neighbors came with their combines and harvested 1000 acres of crops in just 7 hours. Neighbors were quoted as saying that helping the family was "just kind of the farming way of life."
Helping one another is more than just a “farming” way of life, it’s a way of life for many of us. If you take the time to look, you’ll realize stories like this one are happening every day, in every town. They may not be as noticeable as harvesting 1000 acres of land, but trust me, they’re there.
2020 has been a tough year. All the changes in our lives that have resulted from the pandemic have emotions running high. That, combined with racial injustice, and a toxic political landscape, has put hatred in the forefront of our everyday news. Social media fuels hatred even more. You jump on Facebook to wish a friend a happy birthday and can easily get caught up in verbal attacks. With all the hate surrounding us, it’s easy to lose sight of the good.
There’s a famous quote that states “Government isn't the solution to our problem, it IS the problem.” The quote stems from former President Reagan during his inauguration speech back in 1981 and has been slightly revised, taken out of context and reused many times since them. The truth is, when you remove yourself from all the political chaos taking place right now, you’ll realize a kinder world still exists. When you get back to seeing people, not as republicans or democrats but simply as human beings, you can get back to a way of life that still operates one day at a time, doing the best we can, and helping others when they need a hand.
I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t stand up for what you believe in. And I’m not saying don’t publicly support your candidates, if that’s what you choose to do. But I am suggesting there are positive and much more effective ways to do those things.
Do yourself a favor, remove yourself from the hate. The real world that still exists outside of what’s shown in the media, is much more peaceful and would love to have you back!
When you remove yourself from all the political chaos, a kinder world still exists.
Recently in the news we saw Ellen Degeneres' video showing her and former president George W. Bush sitting together at a sporting event. Ellen explained later that even though the two of them have different opinions on politics, they are friends. She proposed the question, are you friends with people that have different opinions than you? and if not, why?
Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary for George W. Bush addresses this issue in her book, "And the Good News Is..." In the book she says:
" I think the best way to be respectful of someone else's point of view is to keep in mind your opponent's intention - often the end goal is the same (better education, safer streets, more jobs) it's just the method to get there that's in question. So if you don't start off by thinking the opposition is evil, but that they want to get to the same place you do, then you are already on your way to having a more civil and productive conversation." She goes on say:
" The scathing language used by many of our elected leaders, candidate hopefuls, and political pundits is beneath them. When did public service turn into a bad episode of Real Housewives?
American's understand that Congress is meant for debate and argumentation. But what bothers them is that it seems that elected leaders can't get along at all. Hateful comments have become normal in Washington, and that's made for some of our greatest disappointments. In their personal lives and businesses, average Americans have to work with people they don't necessarily agree with all the time - but they can set that aside, be constructive, and get results. So, they ask, why can't Members of Congress do the same?
Something has changed in Washington, D.C. Political leaders who used to be held in high regard are now so desperate for attention in a crowded media world that they continually let themselves and their country down by making uncivil and outrageous comments about one another. This has degraded the entire institution."
Dana's book was published in April 2015 - 5 years ago. Politics have only gotten worse.
There was a time when Americans respected our President, regardless of whether or not they were the candidate they voted for. Today, sides seem to be much more divided, finding fault in everything the other side says or does. Social media only makes this situation worse.
I challenge you to be respectful of the other side. Focus on finding one positive thing. Come on, you can do it! Remember, each party wants what's best for our country.
People with different political opinions tend to want the same things - jobs, better education, etc.