I’m sitting in the living room and along comes my eight-year-old wielding a pretend sword (some attachment to the baby crib we aren’t using). He whips it this way and that, twirling and making sound effects as he goes. As he reaches the center of the living room he lifts an eyebrow and says, “Look, Mom. I’m a master swordsman. I should be on America’s Got Talent.”
I hate to tell ya, but it doesn’t work that way.
We start talking about his big dream and what steps would be necessary to accomplish it. I had to ask where he even got the idea since we never watch the show. And while I understand the basic attraction to becoming famous, was there anything else he hoped to gain by being on TV?
As we keep chatting, going through some of the finer points of both his dream and the path to get there, I can see his face slowly lose its light. As his expression darkens, he ends the conversation by giving me that “never mind, ya killed it” look and walking away.
I love that kid and want him to be happy.
I don’t feel bad about the conversation, though.
In our current political environment and over the last few years, I’ve felt like people are trying to take a similar approach with unity. Like my enthusiastic son, they wield the sword of “unity” and expect great things to happen. I understand the appeal. I know a lot of us are sick of being divided. Saying “unity” a lot isn’t going to bring us together, though.
It doesn’t work that way.
At the end of this you might give me that “ya killed it” look, but I’m hoping for those of you who really care about unity, you’ll want it badly enough to consider some of these finer points.
Unity takes a lot of work, obviously. It requires openness and the ability to validate and listen to people who don’t agree with you.
I’ve had to let that sink in a bit. Am I ready to work with people who don’t agree? Am I ready to try unifying with people who are still angry and upset? Or people who aren’t all that great at listening?
To create unity, we have to be ready to unite with people, even those who don’t make it easy. The last four years and this past election have added to the already difficult task of coming together in politics. The new way we communicate with each other disposes of formalities and gets right to the rough and raw points we want to make. We let it all hang out and expect people to deal with it.
Yeah, this might take some effort.
I’ll admit, there have been times I’ve had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, upset by politics and government. I haven’t been happy with things going on and I have found myself attracted to the rhetoric that validates my feelings. My face would sometimes darken at initial pushback when someone would disagree with me. I would become focused on searching for ways to prove them wrong.
Fortunately, I had several friends who were more invested. They pointed out that I had to work harder and not simply regurgitate information. These friends stayed with me as I learned how to become better at unifying and validating. They were patient with me as I had to work through feelings until I was ready to put in the effort. It’s been these more invested relationships that have made the difference in helping me prepare to be unified.
As a note, none of these friends are professionals or experts on the subject of unity. They aren’t even all that political. They are regular, wonderful friends just helping me along.
I want more than anything to see our country unified. Our desire for unity has to be more than a passing fancy. I know it’s going to take more than this simple article to get us there. It’s going to take real effort. It’s going to have to happen on multiple levels with real people making that individual effort to get us there.
Hey, my son isn’t the only one who can dream big.