Talk Softly With A Big Stick

c7726dd5309cc52f3e75fdd60578841fSo here we are today with twelve unwritten chapters lying before us, and three hundred sixty five opportunities to impact the trajectory of our lives. It’s both frightening and exciting to imagine what might happen in the coming year, which will no doubt bring many surprises both good and bad. There will be events over which we have no control, but on any given day we have within ourselves the power to choose how to react. The beauty of a brand new year is that we may change if we wish and slowly but surely redirect our lives in the days and weeks ahead, or we may instead wish to forge ahead in the same direction. Our free will allows us to be the masters of our souls even in the most hellish situations.

As we begin yet another revolution around the sun there are people who find themselves in a state of horror through no fault of their own. There are presently people in Yemen suffering from one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in decades. The citizens of Puerto Rico are struggling at an excruciatingly slow pace to rebuild their hurricane battered island, and closer to home there are exhausted souls in Houston and Rockport who are still waiting to return to their houses that were so devastated by floodwaters. The war in Syria rages on destroying innocents in its path of destruction and hate. Somehow there appears to be no end to the fighting that has so engulfed the lives of people who mostly just long for peace to return.

There is much to be done to set things aright across the globe, and the challenge for all of us will be to make the correct choices, something that is never as easy as it seems because there is no crystal ball to accurately predict the future. There are instead vituous behaviors that almost always make a difference as history has illustrated time and again. We have the power of advocating for the good as each of us attempt to live purpose driven lives. If our focus is on morality we will ultimately overcome even the darkest enemies to common decency.

I’ve always enjoyed listening to talk radio and there are plenty of stations from which to choose, but I have grown weary of the ugly chatter that dominates so many of the channels. I have found refuge in NPR which presents a variety of interesting topics and discussions that have provoked my thinking and kept me apprised of world events far beyond my own limited geographic reach. I particularly enjoy listening to the BBC news hour for a slightly different take on the happenings from across the globe.

On a recent afternoon BBC featured an interview with Prince Harry and former President Barrack Obama. It was a quiet and reasoned exchange of questions and ideas without the usual bombast that has become so much a part of the fare on radio and television. President Obama spoke of his concern over the nasty nature of social media. He noted that the relative anonymity and spontaneity of platforms such as Twitter and Facebook has lead people to have a kind a false courage which allows them to post their comments without the usual filters that polite society often demands. A kind of gritty ugliness often pervades the back and forth of the word battles that ensue. In the process individuals belittle the topics under discussion and engage in wars of words that sometimes harm as much as bullets might. Too often they lead to unnecessary schisms and sadly even violence.

I was quite taken by President Obama’s words and found myself in total agreement with his insistence that it is time that we learn as a society how to properly deal with the power of social media. We might begin with ourselves, but more importantly we should provide guidance to our young who are so often wounded by insults and insinuations aimed at them. We don’t need to eliminate the powerful forms of communication that are at our fingertips, but we can certainly learn to better use them.

I would have felt utterly isolated during the floods of hurricane Harvey were it not for social media and my television. Those outlets kept me apprised of what was happening all around me and provided a sense of security. Instead of imagining what was happening to my friends and loved ones I was receiving real time messages that sometimes included images. Those of us affected by the storms were able to reach out to one another and find a kind of reassurance in the oneness of our dilemma. This is the tremendous good of social media and one of the chief reasons that we need not and should not simply abandon it. Instead we all should find ways to make it better and more inclusive as our former president suggests.

There is definitely evil in the world that we must face down with grim determination. We can’t live in Disneyland even if it we wish upon a star. Back in 1940, unspeakable horror was marching through Europe with almost no resistance. There was a false belief that surrender was the quickest road to peace, a judgement that proved to have horrific consequences for those countries who gave up so readily. It was Great Britain, and in particular Winston Churchill, that faced down Adolf Hitler all alone and with little hope of doing more than keeping the Nazis at bay. It must have seemed dangerously hopeless back then when all of Europe seemed to be within Hitler’s grasp. How different our world might have been had Churchill folded into submission as so many of the European nations had already done. What kind of horrific world would we have witnessed without his resolve and that of his people. Following his example we would all do well to determine just how much we are willing to concede just to avoid controversy. Sometimes we have to steel ourselves for battles that demand to be fought, but we must also learn how important it is to avoid arguments that matter little.

As we enter this new year I pray with all of my heart that we will be ever more decent in our treatment of each other and of all the people of the world. It is my hope that we will know when to stand firmly with our principles and when to compromise. I wish for all of us to possess the wisdom to know the difference. I want our leaders to choose the common good over their own egos even if it means that they must endure criticism and loss of power. Sometimes we instinctively understand what is right and what is wrong and we must stand with all that is good. Talk softly in most situations, but carry a big stick for those moments when it is right and just to rid the world of those who would do us harm. That is our yearly, monthly, weekly, daily task. If we have erred, we simply begin again. That is the ultimate beauty of living and the challenge of each new year.

May each of you find the beauty in a moment and the hope in each tick of the clock. May you discover the ultimate purpose of your life and follow its path with confidence. Look for the good, but be wary of the evil. Spread love as far as you are able and be brave when you need to be. Always think of our children and teach them about the power of the forces that reside in their souls. Remember that when all is said and done love will always triumph. Be patient as the surprising joys of life unfold. 

Happy New Year!