A Plea for Peace
No matter who has won the election, no matter which side controls the Senate, Americans are facing a unique set of problems that need to be addressed. COVID; Economic Recovery; Healthcare; Global Warming; the Deficit; Soviet Interference; Inequality; Immigration; Taxes; our relationship with our former Allies, our relationship with China is just a start! And, of course, we can’t forget Abortion, Gun Rights; Crime!
My dad was telling me when he was a child, he was taught the rules of what he called “civil behavior”. He was taught to give up his seat on the bus for an elderly person. He was told to open doors and hold them open for women, their children, and for the infirmed. He was taught to address everyone with respect. Men he didn’t know were always called “Sir”; women “Mam”, no matter what their job or how he encountered them. He didn’t have any money; he had his first job at 5. He was taught to be aware of his surroundings, be helpful when he could, look out for other people, be respectful, and support his community. By doing these simple things, his community would look out for him. And they did. He had warm clothes. He had a full stomach. He had a roof over his head. All this was true at a time when many went hungry and had nowhere to go.
The other day, I was watching a recent Dave Chappelle interview. It struck me how he was saying the same things as my dad. In his community, everyone behaves civilly toward each other. There is no special status assigned to him because of his celebrity. Everyone treats him with respect and, in turn, he treats everyone the same way. People are not rude; they are not intrusive; they are kind. They support each other. To Dave Chappelle, all politics are local. To him it seemed obvious, take care of your neighbors and they will take care of you.
So what does all of this have to do with the problem list? If all politics are local; that gives us a lot of control. We don’t have to wait for Washington DC to do something. We can handle our problems ourselves. You can give a hand; you can take one when it is offered to you. You don’t need to be rich to help. You can collaborate, communicate, be of service.
Dave Chappelle spoke about the devastation in his Ohio town after the exodus of its businesses to China. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, he and his community worked to bring the production of his shows to his town. Doing so required skills, expertise, and facilities that weren’t readily available in the local environment. All of this was handled. Doing so brought employment, financial support for many, and helped to change the direction of the community in which Mr. Chappelle lived.
Cavanaugh Bell is a 7-year old that is starting a movement in his hometown of Gaithersburg, Md. Cavanaugh Bell loves his Grandma. He knew she was at risk for coronavirus every time she went to the store. He wanted to help her, so she didn’t have to go to the store to risk her health. He put a care package together, food and necessities, and brought it to her. He was happy, but not. He realized it was not just his Grandma, but that the other members of her senior center were also at risk. He decided to make them care packages, too. His vision got bigger. He used his entire savings, $600, to fund his first batch of care packages; but that did not satisfy him! He felt bad because he couldn’t provide a package for everyone he knew that needed one.
When news spread of this first grader’s good deeds, his project became a community project. Donations rolled in. Today, Cavanaugh Bell and his mom can take packages and hot meals to the local seniors that are in need. They hope to help a thousand people. (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/05/us/7-year-old-care-packages-elderly-iyw-trnd/index.html)
Bell isn’t the only one who has created change locally; nor is he the only kid. A viral video by another 7 year old, Grayson Zebro, created a flood of donations to support a large homeless encampment in Duluth, MN. Donations began to pour in quickly after his video went live. Recognizing that donations alone, would not solve the homeless problem, Grayson’s mom, along with her son, in addition to delivering donations they receive, started a political campaign to help end the homelessness challenges faced by their community. (https://shelteringgrace.org/2020/11/11/7-yr-old-boy-collects-donations-for-homeless/)
The success of these two young people teaches us that, if we look at the world through the lens of possibility, with the help of our neighbors, we can effect change. Cavanaugh and Grayson had something in common; they were raised with similar values. They were raised to be “civil”, to consider the feelings of others, be respectful, and to do what they could to help others in their communities. Once they put change in motion, the faith in one’s neighbors professed by Dave Chappelle did the rest.
It should be clear by now, solving big problems, like Covid care for the elderly or homelessness, can be addressed locally. If we can resolve some of the underlying divisiveness that is keeping us from working together, we can build something new out of the failures of our past. And for those who participate, it will make their lives better. Being a part of something bigger than yourself, having a sense of belonging, goes a long way to building a happy, healthy, and prosperous life.