A few weeks ago, my mother-in-law passed away after a five-year battle with the horrible disease of Dementia. During those five years, my loving and caring father-in-law provided 24/7 care for her through those dark and sunny days. Day after day, and night after night he provided this care. After long nights with many struggles he had every right to be down, yet never complained. He would always happily say with a gleam in his eye, “life is good!”
Too often today we find all manner of divisions, digital tribes, and political narcissism, with more than enough antagonism to go around. We have seen the current state of affairs with divisiveness, bitterness, and anger throughout the United States, Idaho, our various communities, and sometimes within our own families. Instead of drawing us together, these recent difficult times have driven us further apart.
Citizens, groups, and family members are seeking to be understood and want to be heard. A friend jokingly pointed out, “of course we can have unity — if only you would agree with me!” Then in a more serious tone asked, “What can I do to lessen contention and build collaboration in our community?”
There is a lot to be said about respecting each other no matter our viewpoints or political leanings, and great value in listening to the various groups within the Republican party and even outside our party. However, each of us must first change our perspective and ask what can I do rather than what you need to do to change.
The ideals that built our nation were a culture of hard work, commitment to our communities, being honest in our dealings, and more importantly of caring for others’ needs before our own. Many times, it is not easy to understand all the circumstances that contribute to someone’s attitude or reaction. Appearances can be deceptive and oftentimes do not represent an accurate measurement of someone’s motivations. It could be an algorithm that drives division through social media, or another person’s actions without consideration for others, or even a poorly chosen word during a time of heightened emotions, it is far too easy to dig our heels in and be too proud to listen, further dividing our community.
I still believe in “US.” I believe in the people of our communities. I believe in the people of Idaho, and the people of this nation. Dale G. Renlund recently said that when we have love of a higher power, “we approach disagreements with meekness, patience, and kindness. We worry less about our own sensitivities and more about our neighbor’s. We “seek to moderate and unify.” We do not engage in “doubtful disputations,” judge those with whom we disagree, or try to cause them to stumble. Instead, we assume that those with whom we disagree are doing the best they can with the life experiences they have.”
I am striving to take a page out of my father-in-law’s book of life; pause in each moment and seek to see the light and not the darkness in life. That may be enough “special sauce” to unite a friend, a co-worker, or an acquaintance. This recipe might also include spreading good news, positivity, happiness, joy, and serving others whenever we can! I encourage each of us to strive to incorporate a compassionate attitude into our way of life and try to be more understanding of people’s needs and circumstances that drive them. With that increased understanding, feelings of genuine interest and love will permeate our every action. Then we can all say together, “life is good!”
This editorial first appeared in the Idaho Press.