Without a trustworthy community around us, how are we to engage with others, uprooted and demoralized in the wasteland of a broken society, to build dependable relationships, a principled civil order, and security for our children and grandchildren?
Are we prepared, I asked last week, to pick ourselves up and turn the corner?
This is an uncompromising question. Not to answer it, or to defer commitment, is in fact to answer it. Because failure to rise to necessity is to accept defeat.
Whatever our personality, philosophy or religious belief, the individual person has an unavoidable choice to make. Either we retreat into ourselves, accepting what is given as beyond control, or we stand up as mature adults and patiently seek to engage with life in an intelligent and productive manner.
At a time of existential crisis for the United States, this choice takes on great importance not only for ourselves, but for the community around us and, arguably, for the world. The American model has served as a beacon of hope for people everywhere, and the world is watching.
If we are to protect our families, organize the means for security among our neighbors, and recover the promise of this nation, we must engage. And we must do so in a manner consistent with our values.
To hesitate here is to react as victims rather than respond as citizens, to choose loss over promise, helplessness over responsibility. We all possess the capacity to live with purpose. The liberated person may be temporarily intimidated by difficult circumstances, but never gives in and never loses sight of the light on the horizon.
I do not suggest that this is easy to do. It is not. What I am saying is that we have no choice. Either we rise above personal limitations and difficulties or we will join the slide into chaos. Standing firm as individuals in the context of community does not isolate us from uncertainty, but positions us to keep our balance, mentally and emotionally.
As I have observed in this blog, choosing to take control of our destiny will require that we exercise tolerance, perseverance, and self-control. We must learn to work together to resolve local problems despite our differences. And, no, this will not be easy.
Working with people is probably the most challenging part of life. Seeking to communicate effectively, and finding the fortitude to be supportive despite the sorrows and frustrations we all have, will become a necessity. There will always be difficult people to test our patience and creativity.
Our job is not to be heroes. Progress will come one step at a time. What will be important is that we step forward to give of ourselves with a positive attitude – come what may.
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task,” wrote Helen Keller, “but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
Stephen Covey gives us reason to appreciate our capacity to accomplish something noble, however small the task might be:
“Every human has four endowments — self awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom — The power to choose, to respond, to change.”
Making a commitment to stay positive can require considerable resolve. But, holding to a vision that inspires us, staying focused on purpose, and building trustworthy friendships can make a very big difference.
The negativity we see around us may appear powerful, but in reality it can only exist in the absence of constructive action, and it only has the energy we grant it. When we set out on a practical path, however limited our self-confidence, and offer encouragement to others with a radiant spirit, we become as a light in darkness.
If we are met with overbearing negativity, it may be wise to take our energy elsewhere. But, never allow your vision to dim or your compassion to be compromised.
Darkness can always be countered with light. Darkness is the absence of light and has no substance of its own. The light of a small candle defies and defeats even the darkest night.
Next week: Finding Courage in Crisis.