When I hear about the violence and terror in Paris, a city 4,535 miles away from me, or San Bernardino, a town 2,203 miles away from me, I wonder just what I can do as one person. Former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tip O’Neil, once observed that all politics is local. And really, so is all of life. Sure, we are citizens of our nation and world, but life really happens every single day in the place we call home. This is the one place in this broken and challenging world where you and I can make a difference for the good and do so quickly. It’s easy to forget or neglect this truth and instead feel as if the world is spinning out of control and that we are powerless to do anything.
I think many of us feel this way because we live in such a digitally connected world today. We learn in real time what is happening anywhere, anytime, anyplace. We don’t have to wait for tomorrow’s newspaper. With live, moment to moment coverage, it’s almost as if we are there in person, watching in horror and feeling helpless to do anything. And to make matters worse, social media gets flooded with uninformed , self-righteous accusations and opinions. Facebook and Twitter overflow with arguments, debates, finger-pointing, and holier-than-thou pontificating. Even people of faith smear one another with stereotypes and rumors. It gets really ugly.
Wouldn’t you like to be a part of the solution and not the problem? Wouldn’t you like to make a difference for the better? Well here’s a radical idea: turn off your computer, television and phone and get out into community that surrounds you. There is a neighbor whom you have not met…introduce yourself. There is someone at work who worships God in a different way than you…ask them about it. There are people whose politics differ from yours…talk about it calmly and respectfully. There is someone who always rankles you with their strong opinions about the President, or immigration, or guns. Sit down right next to them and ask them to talk about why they believe what they believe. And then just listen. Really listen. Try to understand what moves and motivates them. Share your thoughts with them. Have a dialogue, not a monologue. Get to know the people with whom you live, work and play as fellow children of God, as friends. Instead of being tempted to close down your heart and mind in fear of the world, open up to the world, and do so with holy wonder and curiosity.
If the world is going to change, transformation has to begin in your neighborhood, over the fence, at the sidelines of a youth football game, in a local restaurant over a meal, across the pews at church.
I’m willing to give it a try. How about you?
“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.”
You are loved,