A Call for Kindness

If we want to resolve the divide among us, we must first resolve the divide within us.

I want to close myself off to the events that are happening in the world. I just want to post Insta stories at the beach and pretend like life is grand. I want to turn off my computer and the world and disconnect from everything until all of the pain and hurt and anger goes away.

Which is honestly what I’ve been doing.

But Brene Brown’s words keep popping up in my mind.

Strong Back. Soft Front.

I was driving the other day when I started thinking about the tragedy that happened in Vegas. Like really wrapping my head around it — which got me thinking about some of the others that have happened over the last few years… the church shooting in Charleston, the shooting at Pulse in Orlando, the shooting in Dallas, now Vegas?

Then the realization hit that I’ve been to all of those places. I broke down as I started piecing all of the memories together…

I stayed at Mandalay Bay on my first trip to Vegas. I’ve lived in Charleston and my office was a few buildings down from Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church — I drove by that church almost every day for two years. I’ve been to a Jason Aldean concert. I went to college in Orlando. I was in Dallas for an event a couple of weeks before the police officer shootings.

I’m not saying that my experiences compare to what happened in Vegas. But putting myself back in those spaces opened my eyes to the fact that it could have been me.

It could have been you. One day, it could be any of us.

And I think that’s been the most collectively-heartbreaking realization for all of us. Knowing that no matter what we do there is always going to be evil in this world. That it isn’t possible to predict when these horrible acts are going to happen.That even if we think we can, we’re setting ourselves up for failure by feeding the fires of fear.

By choosing to live in fear and build our lives around what *could* happen — instead of opening our hearts to what IS happening.

We could keep using fear and blame as barriers to isolate ourselves and deepen the divide among us.

Or we could use our fears to honor and uncover the ways in which we misunderstand each other. We could use them to see opportunities that we have to come together and create the kind of change that’s good for everyone.

But first, we must acknowledge the fact that we’re a divided country. Not just because of the president or the government… but because we’re scared, angry, lonely, and disconnected individuals.

If we want to resolve the divide among us, we must first resolve the divide within us.

The pieces of ourselves that have fragmented and been left behind. The ones we think disqualify us from showing up.

From standing up.

From speaking up.

The thing about grief is that it reminds us that no one is exempt from pain. That Suffering doesn’t discriminate. It connects us through a humbling reminder that this whole being human thing is something we all have in common.

That our humanity is something we all share — EQUALLY.

Now more than ever it’s time to honor the unique needs our diversity demands of us.

To lean into the discomfort and trust that going through it will grow us beyond it. To understand that the problems we’re facing today can’t be ignored or covered up with quick fixes anymore. They’re demanding us to show up.

To be fully present and process this pain we’re all feeling.

But to do that, we must bridge the gap between “us” and “them”. We must accept that we are all human beings and our only differences are the size and shapes and colors and genders that we come in.

We don’t have to resolve our differences — but we must respect them.

We must respect each other’s unique perspectives and experiences so we can have the cross-cultural, intergenerational conversations that will actually make a difference — no matter how hard they may be.

Because at the end of the day, we are all a part of ONE kind: HUMAN kind.

Our differences don’t change the fact that we are all worthy of being human.

That we are all worthy of believing in what we believe in. That we ALL have a moral and social responsibility to at least try to understand — to honor each other.

But most importantly, we must believe that there’s a better way. That together we can change for the better. That’s the beauty of the country we live in.

Together we CAN change. But first we must change ourselves.

I had a conversation with my roommate last night that forced me to practice what I preach. It was difficult. We come from different backgrounds and our beliefs are on opposite sides of the spectrum, but as our debate heated up, instead of arguing, we listened to each other. I didn’t try to convince him that my beliefs were right. He didn’t try and tell me that I was wrong. We just listened and understood each other– and that made all the difference.

We didn’t have the conversation for the simple satisfaction of knowing we won the argument. Winning was never the goal.

The satisfaction came from knowing that we each stood up for what we believe in, but also gained a new found respect for what the other believes in, too.

We’re experiencing a period of transition on a global scale.

There are new voices, new vices, new beliefs, new genders, and new races. But hiding beneath the chaos of transition is an opportunity to change the world for good.

I’ll be the first to admit that change is scary. Change is uncomfortable.

But it’s time.

The responsibility to change has fallen on our shoulders. Not our parent’s shoulders, or the president’s, or the government’s. Ours.

We must admit our fear of change and do it anyways. We must name our fear and honor the fears of our neighbors. Once we do that, we can dissolve the illusions that separate us. We can see that Change isn’t about converting everyone to one religion or one belief or one political party.

Change is about becoming more tolerant of each other. Change is about being more respectful of our cultural differences, and understanding that those differences are what make this country great. That we make this country great.

But only when we can look at each other through lenses of love and respect will we be able to move the mountains among us. 💗

Originally published at www.cameronmerrill.online on October 12, 2017.