The New Year had me thinking a lot about goals, values, ambitions, motivations, life, and how excited I was to wear my new fuzzy socks. With all the talk of “look how far you’ve come in a year” and “can you believe that was only 1 year ago” I found myself even more reflective and nearly bubbling over with blog ideas – two of which involved writing about goals and values.
At my old job, we had a list of working norms – kind of like guiding values – and each day at our morning huddle, we would say what working norm we were focusing on that day. I loved that idea. I mean, obviously, in theory, you were living into every positive attribute every day you walked into the office, but how nice it was to really put your heart and soul behind one guiding value each week.
For this reason, I’ve decided to dedicate a new series of “Res” posts to my own kind of working norms – my own mini-resolutions. You don’t have to buy into any of these. You don’t have to make your own. But maybe at some point, it’ll make you think about what it would look like to radically change your life one week at a time.
Res 28: Bridge the Gap
When I was little (and okay, still now) and I had to figure out things like time or distance, I would make myself jump to extremes to have a better understanding. For some reason, I always had a hard time understanding small time gaps, so I would multiple the numbers so it would be easier to “see.”
For example, one hour may not make a big difference, but 100 hours does. I would use this weird “extremeism logic” to figure out things like age gaps, price differences, or running splits. It was always silly and unrealistic, but it made it easy to understand.
A lot of what is going on in our country right now is based on extremes. Liberals look to extreme conservatives and conservatives look to extreme liberals and both groups justify their ideas and beliefs by the outliers. Extremes are easier to understand. Extremes make it clear. Liberals are allowed to hate conservatives because of (insert crazy thing an extreme conservative did here) and vice versa.
It’s easier to look at the wildly exaggerated and understand the great divide. It’s hard to parse it down into the middle ground. It’s hard to see an “in between.”
I recently attended a 3-part lecture series held by my Presbyterian church and the Jewish synagogue in my neighborhood. The series was called Welcoming the Stranger and we talked about how we can be allies for immigrants who are at risk in our community.
The first night, I called my friend on the walk home and was all riled up. I was talking quicker than usual and explaining situations that I had gathered new knowledge on. I was ready to make a difference in this cause space and I was worked up in my social justice frenzy.
The next week, I again called my friend on the walk home. I was tired and we discussed other things like mundane aspects of our weeks and daily life.
After the final lecture, I again called my friend. This time, I was frustrated – and not in the excitable “we’re going to make things better” way, but in the “I’m tired of people being unfair to other people” way.
In despair, I finally explained: “Here’s the thing. There will always be people doing good. And I know the whole Mr. Rogers quote, ‘look for the helpers. There are always more helpers.’ I get that. And I love that. And that’s all fine and well. But there are so many people who are dedicating so much time and energy into helping while at the same time, there are others putting their time and energy into hurting and I don’t know why.”
I keyed into my apartment and slumped into my chair (conveniently located under my Mr. Roger’s Memorial photograph). My friend retorted with another question: “why are people unhappy?”
At first, I was annoyed at his apparent negation of my miniature rant, but because I’ve spent nearly 6 years studying happiness both academically and socially, I couldn’t resist the chance to share my thoughts on the topic – which he inevitably knew would happen. In a poised and in my mind, well-spoken way, I gave what I thought was a valid and enlightening answer.
And as I finished I realized he had lead me to my own answer.
Resolution #28: Bridge the Gap
So many actions that seem drenched in hate come from a place of fear. So much of what we perceive as fear comes from a lack of understanding, a lack of human connection, a lack of loving and respecting one another regardless of age, gender identity, race, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
Maybe that’s what we must return to – basic human connection. Not name calling. Not extremes that justify what we already want to believe. Just love.
It’s always going to be easier to stretch out the truth and point fingers at bookends. But what if we open the novel in the middle and realize that we need language from both sides? What if it wasn’t about blame or creating a gap?
Listen to someone that you disagree with this week. Don’t worry about getting a word in. Just listen. Connect. Smile. And bridge the gap.