Sick

In a year defined by sickness, this week has been particularly so. 

There are many forms of sickness of which I speak. The obvious one is the coronavirus – whose toll mounts  despite having the means right in front of us to control it.  Less obvious is the sickness in our politics and civil discourse – not just between members of different political parties but within our families and amongst our friends. 

Nelson Mandela once stated, “Having a grievance or resentment is like drinking poison and hoping it will kill the enemy.”

We are making ourselves sick. 

While social distancing and wearing masks are the key to defeating the coronavirus, the opposite is necessary if we want to make ourselves well from the poison we’ve been drinking. 

We need to close the social distances that divide us and drop our masks that pretend we have all the answers. We do not want to be vulnerable to the coronavirus but must show some vulnerability to each other if we intend to heal.

In response to what I was seeing in the social media feeds of my friends and family and what we were not saying to each other, I wrote this letter to them that appeared in papers in Pennsylvania where most live.

It is resulting in some of the best conversations I’ve had about politics in ten years. Most occurred online, a few on the phone. We peacefully and productively talked about issues ranging from faith to fracking from the military to protests. I’ve learned more about these issues than I ever had before and I believe the same holds true for those on the other end of the conversation. Importantly, I learned how the coronavirus and the economic shutdown has impacted my family and friends more directly than I had imagined – including some who had lost loved ones.  

The goal of these conversations were not about converting or convincing anyone. It was about connecting with them.

It was about opening each other’s minds, not changing them.

When we feel sick, we look for a diagnosis – not for someone else but for ourselves.  The treatment is for us to follow – not for someone else. In this case, my prescription was not ingesting more poison but letting it go. One text, one call, one conversation at a time.

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