Several weeks ago, one particular New York Times thread seized my attention, where readers were examining while discussing their viewpoints on whether or not America was on the right side of the track as it regards present day conditions of economic, cultural, and social developments. The most provocative query of the dialogue to the readers was, “Has America lost its way?” The rejoinder to that question acknowledged, “It may not be that America is losing its way, but that other countries, in economic terms, are finding theirs.”
There may be concurrence about its misguided path, but candid disagreements over its roots of development. Over the past 40 years, the country has changed its direction. It was changing then – it is changing now, because change is inevitable. Nothing can ever stay the same, but the concern of the majority is not so much why we are shifting, but how. Are we creating a world in which we can live or just exist? Or not exist at all?? Are we bravely recognizing our challenges while ardently seeking positive solutions that can aid the elderly, educate the young and disadvantaged, house the destitute, open opportunity to the unemployed, and feed the indigent? The economic, social, and cultural abrasions that have been inflicted force us to expose these wounds and look for uncontaminated ways we can heal.
Every era and political election has brought with it negatives and positives; assurances and uncertainties; leadership and misdirection; challenges and solutions; possibilities and inconsistencies. These considerable periods of change and circumstance have brought us to yet another turning point: a period in time when many things ought to be reconsidered. Governments are always looking for new taxes to impose. They tax the money we earn and spend. If they only could, they would tax us according to our mood. They could slap a happiness tax on anyone who smiles too frequently, but then if they stop smiling, they could put a gloom tax on those who are too pessimistic. In a strange way, we penalize ourselves when we become dispirited, thus paying a high price for our doubts and misgivings.
The question: How did we get HERE?
We arrived here we when stopped considering the “we” and began to endorse the “I.” We got here by rapidly evolving technologically while drastically declining intellectually. We became careless, reckless, less considerate, and overall, lost track of the things that were most important, most beneficial, and most critical to the survival of our families, communities, and ourselves. We forgot how to treat one another, how to love, how to forgive, but most importantly, we forgot that God owns it all.
One New York reader expressed, “We embraced pleasure over productivity.” He furthered added, “Our lost ability to embrace the “we” will be our downfall.”
A Boston University history professor stated, “Perhaps there are numerous right paths in our interconnected world. For America, perhaps finding the right course is an unending challenge, central to the national experience. We should have the audacity to hope that this is so.”
Surely, it’s not that we cannot find our way back to the right side of the track, but we cannot do it without developing a sure sense of urgency. The goal is to move forward – with more love and more light. It’s no secret that our current state of affairs has created an anxiety that is barely endurable for those still in the boat – but drowning those below it. Our 21st Century America needs a new declaration: a rescue, a healing, a deliverance.
So how do we begin to HEAL? We heal by giving back not by giving in. We heal by bridging the gaps between the rich and poor and breaking down the walls of mediocrity. We heal by letting go of the Ego around us and embracing the Eagle in us. We heal by being responsible, responsive, respectful, and refocused. We heal by judging people less and accepting them more, not only for who they are but also what they are. Sexual preference is never an excuse to “dismiss” an individual and it does not make a person – character and integrity do. We heal by any means necessary, by increasing our faith, never under-estimating our power of influence, and discovering our life’s purpose. Imagine what would so happen if we did?
The resolve: Altruism, Philanthropy, Civility, Gratitude
There are more things than not we can employ to restore, rebuild, and reconcile the world in which we live; small steps create big change. In other words, little things make a difference. First off, faith is free of charge. It doesn’t cost anything to pray; prayer is at no cost as is indispensable. It takes less emotional muscle to smile at a stranger, greet a neighbor, or hold the door for the person behind you; after all, manners matter. Community service at a crisis center may save a young adults life. On any given day, a serving hand behind the counter at a homeless shelter not only helps the line move a little faster for those in need of a meal, but also memorably connects you with someone you’ve never seen before. Their gratitude will change your life; their smile will heal your soul.
Altruism is the opposite of egoism. It is the principle or practice of concern for the welfare of others. Contrary to selfishness, altruism is an inner motivation that focuses merely on providing for others through moral obligation, the sacrificing of time, energy, or possessions, and the contentment of seeing others benefit.
Philanthropy is the key to hope, balance, and real change. It nourishes the soul and enhances the quality of civilization. The conventional measurement of philanthropy is the essential nature and purpose of humanity and culture in society. It asserts that our nature and purpose in life is educational—to make ourselves more fully humane through self-development, pursuing excellence of body, mind, and spirit.
Civility…we dropped off somewhere along the journey. We forgot how to be pleasant, polite, careful, self-aware, and overall – civil human beings. Civility is not only having true respect for us but also for others. It is a constant responsiveness to being open to hear, learn, teach, and change. It seeks common ground as a beginning point for dialogue when differences occur, while at the same time, recognizing that differences are enriching. Civility requires grace, patience, and strength of character.
Marian Wright Edelman expressed, “We are coming to the point in this country where doing what is right is merging with what we need to do to save our national skins.”
Civility begins within each of us.
Gratitude modifies our attitude and ultimately heightens our quality of life. Appreciation is the perfect gift with the potential to last a lifetime. It provides immeasurable joy, self-esteem, and pride. It enhances the giver just as much as the receiver. Every day, we should find something to acknowledge and be grateful for. Through challenge, loss, trial, and error, we learn to live our lives as if everything were a miracle and become aware on a continuous basis of how much we’ve been given. Gratitude shifts your focus from what your life lacks to the abundance that is already present.
Meister Eckhart once said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”
I believe that altruism, philanthropy, civility, and gratitude can bring change to the world…and it will bring change to YOUR life. Self-development, manifested in good deeds toward others, is the surest way to live a pleasing, fulfilling, and satisfying life, as well as help build a commonwealth community.
Summed up in a handful of insightful and bracing words by one professor emeritus of history at Illinois State University, “Whether we are pessimists or optimists, Americans now require a dose of confidence – a renewed faith in our society and ourselves. That renewal, if it comes at all, will be by ordinary people doing extraordinary things and a society that allows their creativity.”
Love and Light for your Tuesday. Whatever you do…VOTE November 6, 2012
Reference commentary of August 23, 2011 – Everyday Philanthropy: The Art of Giving During Uncertain Times [Guest Commentator, Akoshia Yoba]