Without safe communities, and neighbors we can depend on, how will we find security for our families or begin to create a future we can believe in? Tell me, please, in what other place do we have the freedom and the opportunity to build a stable civil order?
Do we imagine that a shining superhero will ride to our rescue? Or will we, as I asked last week, pick ourselves up and do what needs to be done?
This is an uncompromising question. Not to answer it, or to defer commitment, is in fact to answer it. Failure to rise to necessity is to accept defeat.
Whatever our personality, our political philosophy or religious belief, the individual has an unavoidable choice to make. Either we retreat into ourselves, accepting what is given as beyond our control, or we step forward to engage hardship and purpose with constructive intent.
This is a very personal choice, but at a time of existential crisis for the United States it takes on great importance – not only for ourselves, but for America and the world.
The United States has served as a model for governance and an engine of creative vitality that is unparalleled in human history. The American idea has been a beacon of hope for people everywhere. There has never been anything else like it. And, the world is watching.
To hesitate here would be to respond as victims rather than as citizens. It would be to choose loss over promise, helplessness over responsibility. We may be temporarily intimidated by difficult circumstances. But we must never give in and never lose sight of the dawn of the new day that even now lights the horizon.
Living with purpose gives us courage and inspiration.
I never said it will be easy. It will not. What I am saying is that we have no choice. Without the courage to begin anew, we will join the slide into chaos.
Standing firm in the context of community does not isolate us from uncertainty. It will provide only limited protection from the confusion around us. What it does is keep us close to trustworthy and dependable friends and neighbors.
It positions us to best keep our balance, mentally and spiritually. And, it keeps the potential for an American future alive.
Working with people is probably the most challenging part of life. Choosing to take control of our destiny will require perseverance and forbearance – a readiness to exercise tolerance, patience, self-control. Communicating effectively will become a necessity.
There will always be difficult people to test us.
Our job is not to be heroes. Our job is to win over hearts and minds to the cause of safety, mutual respect, and rational governance. Only then will it be possible for fear to give way to curiosity, for judgmental attitudes to be replaced with genuine listening and compassionate understanding.
Progress will come just one step at a time, and will often seem painfully slow. Making a commitment to stay positive can require considerable resolve. But, holding to the truth in our vision, focusing on productive purpose, and building trustworthy friendships – can make a very big difference.
The negativity that surrounds 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 and offer encouragement to others with a radiant spirit, we become as a light that pushes back the darkness.
If we are met with overbearing negativity, it may be wise to take our energy elsewhere. But, we must never allow our vision to dim or our 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.
A note to new readers: Blog entries adapted from the forthcoming book are posted on most Fridays at both this, the main blog site, and on the Facebook page. To receive alerts by email you may click “Follow” on this site.