I woke up this morning. While that may seem to be a minor accomplishment I know it to be something quite special, a blessing. I have one more opportunity to approach life with generosity and love, to do something outside of myself, to realize what is truly important, maybe even to impact someone who needs a little support to make it through another day. Last week was very hard for me. It began with very personal sadness and ended with worry and concern.
I should know better than most people just how uncertain life can be. I have awakened on a beautiful summer day only to learn that my thirty three year old father died in a car crash. I have watched my mother deteriorate so quickly from cancer that we never even had the opportunity to receive a definitive diagnosis. I have attended more funerals for loved ones and friends than I care to recall. Illness and death is a recurring theme in our world. We know that our days are numbered and yet we allow ourselves again and again to become distracted from focusing on the people in our lives.
Last week I received a frightening text that my son-in-law and my grandson had been in a terrible wreck. The car in which they were riding was totally destroyed in the blink of an eye. If the impact had differed by an inch here a foot there it might have been fatal for them as well. My grandson had difficulty even exiting his seat because the dashboard had pushed so close to him. Luckily all of the safety features of the auto did exactly what they were designed to do and both of my loved ones were okay, at least physically if not emotionally. Kind strangers went out of their way to help and in the end all went well but our family was still shaken by thoughts of what might have been.
Within less than an hour on the same day I received yet another message informing me that one of my cousins was receiving hospice care. He is someone who has been part of my life for as long as I have memories. He was born ten months after I was. We grew up together, sharing our childhoods, our teenage years and our lives as adults. He has been a constant source of laughter for me. He loves to tickle my funny bone with his sense of humor and corny jokes. Even a week after receiving this devastating news I can’t fathom losing him.
Last night there was a remarkable event in honor of another cousin who is battling lymphoma. She is far younger than I am, a mother of two small children who is really just beginning her adult life. She is a woman of incalculable faith but her strength is being tested to its very limits. Those who love her have rallied to her cause. She has earned their attention with the generosity of her heart. She presents a brave face to all of us but I can’t help but believe that there are many times when she is so afraid of what the future will be. I sense that she will be a courageous warrior for her children and I believe that she will win. Still I worry for her and find myself praying throughout the day that she will soon be healed.
The results of the election last week were shocking to me. I never would have dreamed that our next President would be Donald Trump. I stayed awake to hear the final announcement and even laughed a bit at the thought of this strange man leading our country. My inclination was to take his victory in stride. I learned long ago to be resilient. If I did not know how to roll with life’s punches I would have been destroyed by now. It was with great concern that I realized just how many people were suffering deeply because of what had transpired. Their pain was true and visceral.
I am above all empathetic almost to the point of overkill. I actually feel the hurt of those around me. It ties me into emotional knots that bind my mind. For most of the past week I experienced anxiety attacks, insomnia and spasms in my lower back. All of these things are related to the worry that I have for the individuals who feel so lost and confused over what has just happened. While I believe that many of their fears for our future are not going to be quite as bad as they think I understand why they are so worried.
I have written on multiple occasions about the undocumented students that I have taught. They were brought into our country when they were tiny children. The United States of America is really all that they have ever known. Whether or not this should have happened to them is of little relevance. What’s done is done and they had nothing to do with it. To suddenly punish them by sending them back to countries that are foreign to them seems particularly cruel. Most of them have been outstanding citizens. They have earned college degrees and worked hard, asking for little or nothing from the rest of us. Now they are fearful that all that they have ever known will suddenly be turned upside down by a man who has pledged to send them away. Even those who were born here worry that their families will be torn asunder. Their fears are so tragically real and I feel their pain deep down in my soul.
I have taught many Black children. They too wonder how they will be treated in the new political reality. It would be easy for all of us to dismiss their concerns as being unrealistic but I believe them when they tell me that they often suffer indignities. They are so beautiful to me that I sometimes forget that prejudices still exist. They know that even with their educations and their best efforts there will be those who consider them to be less than.
I am acquainted with people who are incredulous that so many of our citizens were able to overlook the offensiveness of Donald Trump and elevate him to the highest office in the land. At the same time I am familiar with others who believed with all of their hearts that Hillary Clinton was easily as bad. Many voters saw their choice as being the selection of the lesser of two evils. They did not pick Trump because they were vicious people but for reasons that made perfect sense to them.
In the aftermath of the election I have been brokenhearted, mostly because of the animosity that I have seen from both sides of the voting public. I have witnessed people reacting in self righteous and smug ways toward their fellow citizens. I have read of instances in which people declared that members of their family were dead to them based solely on the ways they voted. I heard from a former student who is sincerely worried that a civil war will break out in the streets of our cities and towns. He is a young father who only wants his little girl to live in the safety and security that he senses might slip away if we do not find ways to become more united. My heart has felt as if it will break into a million little pieces. It all seems so very wrong.
We have been fighting with each other for far too long. We simply cannot continue to be a split screen nation. I pray for the soul of my country. While I am not a fan of President Elect Trump I want him to prove me wrong. I would like nothing better than for him to pull us together as a nation and bind the gaping wounds that are making us so sick. We need to be able to hear the many voices of our people whether they be liberal or conservative, straight or gay, white or of color, young or old, from the north or the south, the east or the west, urban or rural. I suspect that if we remain unwilling to find ways to reach out to even those whose ideas confound us then we will be in for years of chaos and hurt. I believe that we are better than that. It is time for us to show our better selves for the sake of our children. The sun will rise no matter what we choose to do but our days will surely be sunnier if we learn how to work together once again.