A small disclaimer that this message is meant to inspire, but to get to that place, we have to address the elephant in the room, within this country—the United States of America. See this week’s video here: https://youtu.be/ETfMTtzNEuI
As I was writing these words, Joe Biden won the United States presidency, and Kamala Harris became the first woman, the first black and Asian vice president of the United States. I had to take a moment because there was a lot of happy crying on my part. I personally felt just a sigh of relief and the release of something heavy that I did not realize that I had been holding onto.
However, there was something very revealing about the country in that this race was so close. After everything that people saw and witnessed over the last four years, children in cages, a refusal to acknowledge that racism does exist, the curtailing of basic human rights, and a lack of care and utter disregard for the environment, I was personally shocked that so many people voted for the incumbent. Obviously if you are reading this blog, then you know that I am a black woman, and that alone can probably give you a sense of where my vote fell.
I didn’t make my vote simply for me, but for so many reasons—for a return to basic decency, for my friends and family who are part of the LGBTQ community, for immigrants, for myself as a black person in this country, for science—climate change and its impact, and that list is long. Initially, I felt a tad bit of hopelessness, and the energy was heavy and intense. I reminded myself that because we just ended a Mercury Retrograde period on Election Day that getting the votes counted would be a slow process. I also had to really take care of myself, and my peace of mind. That involved taking a day off work, taking a long walk in nature, disconnecting from technology, and reminding myself of somethings that I know to be true. I have literally been reminding myself of the things that I talk about all the time. Hold on to hope, fight for what I believe in, do what I can within my span of control, and love—keep loving and having faith even when it feels hard.
One of the things that I remembered is that throughout the history of the world, no matter what is going on, there are always people out there who are being kind, compassionate, and expressing love. Mr. Rogers had a quote that he used to say, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Some people have issue with this quote because they think it has been overused in tragedies, and that it was a quote intended for children. When I hear this quote, what I actually think is more that it is a reminder that “good” is always happening. When we train our eye to see it, we will see the good things that are happening. We will always find people that are helping and doing good.
Furthermore, I also think that it is a call for us to do good as well. We cannot sit passively by the wayside; we must be proactive about going after the future that we want. We have often heard the Mahatma Gandhi quote, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” And I know, Gandhi was also not without controversy, but I think that the message is an important one. I read somewhere that this quote is actually part of a larger message from Gandhi that said, “We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” And for me the key line here is, “we do not need to wait to see what others do.” We can do good right at this moment, where we are.
If this election tells me anything, it tells me that there is work yet to be done. It tells me that at any moment, any of us could be called to stand on the right side of history. It tells me that when I have read history, and wondered, how could people do x, y, and z, I need not wonder anymore because I am seeing it all unfold before my very eyes. The beauty of democracy is that everyone can have an opinion and cast their own vote, and feel how they want to feel about something, and yet everyone can for the most part, still get along. But there was something different in how this week felt. I am reminded of the words of the great writer, James Baldwin. “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” It has been hard to feel that sense of unity when everything about the other side feels rooted in my oppression and as a rebuke of my very existence.
So this week, I want to remind you that good things are still happening, and that at any moment, you can indeed be the change or the goodness that you wish to see in the world. Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” So cheers to the beauty and love that yet remains in this world. Here are a few examples of the human spirit shining through in history!
1) During the Great Depression, the famous jazz musician Louis Armstrong set up a pile of coal in Baltimore and let underprivileged families come and take as much as they needed. When he was growing up in New Orleans, he sold coal and realized the value to these families especially during wintertime. It would allow families to warm their homes during such a rough economic time.
2) In 1859, Henry Dunant had traveled from Switzerland to Solferino, Italy for business. While there, he witnessed a deadly battle that was part of the Second War of Italian Independence. He wrote his memories and observations in his book, Memory of Solferino. In the book he talked about how so many were left for dead and how little was done to care for the sick or those close to death. The book and his idea for a neutral organization that treated wounded soldiers became very popular. This organization became the Red Cross. His ideas also helped inspire other humanitarian organizations, and helped to establish the Geneva Conventions. Dunant was awarded the very first Nobel Peace Prize.
3) Some people may have heard of Nicholas Winton. Born to a Jewish family in the UK, he was horrified by what he saw happening to the Jews under Nazi regime. He worked with the British government to save over 669 Jewish children. He brought them to Britain and found homes for them. In 1988 his wife found the notes of his amazing deeds and informed a Holocaust researcher. The BBC did a story on it! There is some footage of a program on BBC where he was reunited with over two dozen of the children that he helped. Look up the video, but be prepared to shed a few tears.
4) The chef Jose Andres has done some amazing and kind deeds. His World Central Kitchen has provided over 1 million meals to people impacted by natural disasters. He always shows up for the communities around him.
5) I can mention Oprah Winfrey—most people know about some of the amazing things that she had done for lots of different people. It is reported that she supports over 23 charities and foundations including her own. She had often emphasized that donating time is just as valuable as donating money.
6) Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman was a superhero. She saved hundreds of people during slavery, she fought with the Union army—actually becoming the first woman to ever lead an armed raid in the American Civil War, and she advocated for a better country for everyone. She was brave, and gosh, if you do not know about her, please do some research on this incredible woman.
7) During this year as the world as experienced a global pandemic, I have also seen small acts of kindness from friends, family, and even strangers. These small acts make a big difference and they give me hope for the future. Each day there are many people that you may never hear about who are shining their love light. You don’t have to tell everyone all of the good things that you do or blast it on social media, but know that the energy that you put out is helpful to everyone. I always get a visual in my mind of love as a golden light just being sprinkled all across this world. This is the world that I see and want for the future, and it is one that I will work towards helping to create. Every single day!
I am emotional today, and that is because I do feel more hopeful than ever that the things that make us human, the things that make this world great and beautiful will prevail. That is in short, our ability to transcend obstacles, to love each other, and ourselves and to love this planet. Tom Hiddleston said, “Doing good in this world, and being kind and being honest and noble is really underrated. And I think you have… I think everyday people have enormous power, and they have enormous power for good, and if you’re good to people, the world is a better place.”
May the stars shine brightly over your week, and may it be one filled with hope, healing, and love.