The last nine months (some would say the last four years) have been unusual, yes? The election that appears to be leading us by the nose into incivility and division, perhaps even civil war. The pandemic that resulted in more than half-a-million deaths in the U.S. and untold long-term damage to the health and lives of so many more. A planet that is literally burning up and out from under us. The light of injustice shines brighter on systemic racism, the evil heritage of our country and the secret we pretend doesn’t exist. It all adds up to a time which is out of our control, where we live surrounded by chaos and cataclysm.
Some have asked me if I think all these events are signs of the end of the world. Early on, I was quick to point out that there have been worse times in our nation’s history…but they are so far back in our collective memory that we’ve forgotten the pain that we faced as a people. My grandfather, Charles Fenwick Segraves was a small boy in 1913 (circled in this snapshot). He lived through some pretty troubling days, including two World Wars, a global pandemic that killed millions, a Great Depression, The Holocaust, and Warren Harding, a President who is ranked by some as one of the worst in U.S. history.
Certainly, those who grew up during the Cold War feared a Global Thermonuclear disaster that would end life as we know it (while prompting great movies like the Planet of the Apes and War Games – so it wasn’t all bad).
The Korean Conflict, Vietnam on the nightly news, Water Gate, and 9/11 all created their own dread of a world that had gone mad.
So, where does that leave us? This messed up time, our dysfunctional politics, our hostility and incivility, our racism, our personal desires and selfish ambitions all seem to be overwhelming any goodness that is left in us as a nation, as a people. Where do we go from here?
Can I make a simple suggestion? Stop talking and start listening. Stop making fists and start opening arms. Stop judging and start loving.
I may not be able to bring about world peace, but I can talk to my neighbor about their family, their flowers or their dog. I may not be able to end oppressive regimes, but can deliver a small bag of homemade cookies to the family down the street. I might never be the one to end the racial injustice that scars our nation, but I can spend time without fear talking, laughing or crying with my friends who are different in their color, religion, or sexual orientation.
The world isn’t a more broken place today than it was 100 years ago; it’s just that we weren’t living 100 years ago. That was my grandfather’s world. But this is our world and our time and it’s our responsibility to engage it with Love, Grace, Hope and Peace.