Monday, May 23, 2016

They Served a Grateful Nation. Will We?



“Non nobis solum nati sumus." (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)
--Marcus Tullius Cicero

It gets me every time. 

No matter how often I preside as clergy at the funeral of a military veteran or active service person, the haunting ritual at the end of the graveside service always moves me.  It fills my eyes with tears. Gives me a lump in my throat, as I place my hand over my heart and watch…

“Taps” is played on a trumpet and its mournful notes wash over the assembled and the hushed cemetery. Two service people—an honor guard—approach the flag-draped casket, reverently lift up the stars and stripes, and neatly fold it into a fabric triangle.  Finally, one from that guard approaches a widow or widower, or the eldest surviving son or daughter, or a relative, and presents them with the flag.  What’s not often heard by those assembled, are the words always spoken by the soldier, as the flag is handed over.

“On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States Army (or Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force or Coast Guard), and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”
                                                                                       
A grateful nation. 

Grateful, because that man or woman was called to serve or chose to serve, the United States of America.  His country. Her home. He was summoned through the draft, or inspired to join up, because of Pearl Harbor or 9/11.  She joined with others, in service to a cause greater than herself: to defend the nation she loved or to give back in gratitude for her homeland.  

But here’s the real civic miracle symbolized in that ritual. They served.  Served. Me and you.  Served fellow citizens, millions of people, most of whom were strangers to them.  They served, sacrificed a chunk of their lives and precious time with family and loved ones. They stepped out of careers or school. They left behind sweethearts or children. They served, sometimes in not so hard places, but often in the worst of places. On the beaches of Normandy or the jungles of Pacific islands or in Vietnam, or on the cold plains of Korea, or the sweltering sands of Iraq and Afghanistan. They served, in the prime of their lives, as a nation sent forth its sons and daughters.  

They served. 

And always their example makes me wonder, even worry: could I do that?  Serve, as they did, as so many millions still serve this day?  Could you? Would you, if asked, if needed by our nation, leave it all behind and serve? When I die, will the nation I call home, be grateful for the one life that I’ve lived, the causes I’ve served? 

To serve. 

In these cynical, sometimes nihilistic times, it is all too easy to forget our shared civic life and responsibilities. This call to serve. It is so tempting to just leave it up to somebody else to do our heavy lifting. To snarkily dismiss the notion of a citizen’s duty as quaint, old fashioned, the vestige of an earlier age. But when we do so, we forget that individual and communal service to others: this is what truly made and makes a nation great.  That when the call goes out for sacrifice, citizens respond. 

For America is not finally “great” because of the size of our GDP or the wealth of the few or the fame of our pseudo heroes or the allure of power. America was and is a “great” nation for the most noble of ideals. Like freedom and folks ready to defend it.  Community and a commitment to living a life not just for “me” but also for “thee”.  Patriotism: not the cheap kind, sporting a .99 cent flag lapel pin or knowing all the words to the national anthem.  That’s easy.  Real patriotism is stepping up and serving your neighbor and it happens in the military and many other settings too. Service: in faith communities and families, in suburban neighborhoods and on city streets, in running a business or volunteering to coach kids, or serving on a town board or feeding the hungry.

Service is life, in a way.  We all got to where we are in this life because some one else sacrificed on our behalf.  They served us.  Remember?

So my prayer for this Memorial Day weekend is simple. In between all the soccer tournaments and baseball games and barbeques and flag waving, may each of us as citizens and humans consider just what we are doing to serve others.  The smallest life is one devoted to self alone. The greatest life always seeks to serve others. In gratitude, let’s not forget that.

Happy Memorial Day.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Drivers and Cyclists: Can't We All Share the Road? PLEASE?!


"Boston cyclist killed Friday was a surgeon at Beth Israel"   --Boston.com, August 9, 2015

“You’d never catch me on a bicycle these days!”

That’s the emphatic answer I received recently when I suggested to a friend she take her road bike out of storage. Dust it off and join me for a ride.  Just a ride.  What’s the big deal?  Who doesn’t love riding a bike?

Remember? As kids, riding a slick new Schwinn ten speed or a Raleigh, the one with the banana handlebars: that was the way to get around town. Cycling as freedom: it was and is still for most kids, a first foray into independent transportation.  My bike got me to middle school football practice and Duke’s Corner Store for a cold Coke on a hot August day. My bike made me into a budding young entrepreneur as I delivered newspapers in the cool morning air.  When I hit my late forties and decided to do something about my growing mid section, it was a bike that got me back into shape. Even if you haven’t cycled for years, the cliché holds true. Riding a bike is just like riding a bike. Our bodies somehow never forget the sweet sensation of forward motion on two wheels and all under our own power. 

What makes me sad is that lots more folks like my friend would bike if it didn’t seem so darn dangerous.  In my fifty years of cycling, I’ve never been more concerned for my own safety, and for one simple reason: so many drivers now do anything but drive. I see it every single time I’m out for a ride.  Drivers don’t pay attention anymore.

Drivers text and talk, eat and drink and then turn around to yell at the kids.  Driver fiddle with increasingly complex screens and knobs and buttons that the newest cars boast. Drivers look down but not up and out at me.  Little me…a 190 pound person on a twenty pound bike gliding at 14 miles per hour.  I have little or no chance of surviving unscathed a collision with you, in your 2,000 pound mass of metal, flying along at 30 or 40 or 60 miles per hour.

Yes, I know that some of my biking peers are cowboys, even rude when they go out for a ride. You see them now, especially on weekends, packs of cyclists, sometimes clogging narrow roads and angering drivers. I’ve even seen some of my fellow bikers talking on their phones too! Some bikers neglect the basic rules of what it means to share the road.  They don’t ride single file when possible.  Don’t keep a straight line or stay as far to the right as practical. They weave like drunken sailors. Don’t follow traffic rules or use hand signals. 

So here’s my plea: don’t judge the majority of well mannered, respectful cyclists by a handful of outliers who make us all look bad.  Instead remember this: all most cyclists want to do is what drivers also want to do: get from here to there.

And bike…because we love the exercise and reveling in the gift of seeing the world at a slower pace.  We bike because we love saving the environment, one commute to work or the grocery store at a time. We bike to make us feel young again, to push our bodies and rest our minds and souls.  We bike for charity, for rides like next August’s Pan Mass Challenge which will raise more than $40 million for cancer care and research.  That’s why I’m out riding now.    

So please, PLEASE, PLEAAAASE!!! 

Watch out for us as we take to the roads this spring and summer.  I don’t want to become a sad statistic or a tragic story in the newspaper about the next cyclist seriously injured or killed by a car or truck.  When it comes to two wheeled vehicles versus four wheeled vehicles the statistics are sobering.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2013, 743 cyclists nationwide died on the road, and 48,000 were injured. 

Those aren’t just numbers.  They represent real people. A kid killed biking to CVS.  A doctor crushed under the wheels of a truck, as she made her way to work on the busy streets of Boston.  A Dad coming home from a long day at the office and being clipped by a speeding SUV. He now lives with a severe head injury. Maybe you know someone from your close circle of friends or your family, who wanted nothing more than to ride in peace and safety but then paid the price. For a bike ride.   

There is only one road. We all need to share it. All of us.  My prayer is that drivers and cyclists will do so, with attention, civility, respect and care. I’ll be looking for you on the road.  Won’t you look out for me too?  I promise you a friendly wave and a smile.    

Thank you.



Monday, May 9, 2016

Facebook For Fifty Minutes a Day: Is It Worth It?


Future Shock (noun) 1. a state of distress or disorientation due to rapid social or technological change. (Popularized by the author Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book of the same name)         --Google.com

Fifty minutes a day.

According to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, this is the average amount of time that Facebook’s 1.65 billion users worldwide now spend on the site in a given 24 hour period, along with its other social media, Instagram and Messenger. Fifty minutes. I confess up front that this figure works for me as an “average” Facebook consumer. Almost every day since I joined the site seven years ago, it’s a pretty safe bet I’ve spent upwards of nearly an hour daily, consuming and being consumed by Facebook and its addictive, compelling and infinite collection of content. Cat videos and graduation photos. Political screeds and baby pictures. Updates on where my “friends” are and what they are doing at any given moment in time. 

Fifty minutes daily.

This means that since January 2009, I’ve spent 2,662 hours, or 110 days of my life, glued to the Facebook scroll.  Clicking and surfing and reading and commenting and staring at a brightly lit screen, about a foot or so from my face.  Extrapolate Facebook’s numbers to the world and you get some mind bending figures.  Every day, Facebook users, who make up about one third of the world’s population (above 15 and below 80 years old): these folks spend 82.5 billion minutes on the site and similar social media platforms. That’s 1.375 billion hours. 

But that only fifty minutes, today, right?  Not that much time. 

Actually, fifty minutes, in the context of how an average American spends his or her time each day: it is a lot of time.  From a May 5th “New York Times” article: “The average time that users spend on Facebook is nearing an hour. That’s more than any other leisure activity surveyed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with the exception of watching television programs and movies (an average per day of 2.8 hours). It’s more time than people spend reading (19 minutes); participating in sports or exercise (17 minutes); or social events (four minutes). It’s almost as much time as people spend eating and drinking (1.07 hours).”

Makes me wonder what haven’t I done in the past seven years when I’ve chosen to surf Facebook and failed to do something else with my free time. I’ve probably skipped going to the gym several times. Neglected phone calls to friend. Procrastinated from getting back to work.  Prayed a little less. Forgotten to take a walk and get outside or ride my bike. It is sobering to think of all that time I’ve given over, given up, to the world’s most ubiquitous social media site. 

It is breathtaking, even shocking, to consider how fast (in less than ten years) Facebook and other social media has become seemingly irreplaceable in so, so many of our lives, especially the young. I use it to promote my work, spread the Gospel, keep up with friends, connect with parishioners, follow current events, connect with fellow writers and clergy and my choir, and to entertain myself.  Social media has absolutely taken center stage in our culture.  There is no turning back.      

But like any historic epoch, which the explosion of social media marks (for comparison consider the invention of written language, the printing press, or film), this life changing tool must be handled with great care. Like fire it can illuminate life for us or it can consume life for us. As in fifty minutes a day. 

Because for all I love Facebook and social media I also fear and loathe it too.  For the way it sucks me in to what I call the “Facebook fog”. One minute I’m reading and scrolling and the next minute I look up and it’s been an hour of surfing and I’ve gotten nothing done and wasted all that time. Facebook scares me for its propensity to take the most complex political and social issues and whittle these down to a simplistic opinion, creating space where folks mostly talk at each other, not to each other.  Facebook sells the idea of community and “friends” yet fails to satisfy the most basic human need: to physically be with others. 

Fifty minutes and Facebook. 

We’ve all got about 16 waking hours this day to use as we see fit. To work. To play. To connect to others. To make the world a better place. To love. To just be alive. Sixteen hours given to us by God. It is precious time which once consumed, will never, ever come back again and within this, is our Facebook fifty minutes. 

So here’s the question. Is it worth it?


         

           

 






Monday, May 2, 2016

Many Americans Are Mad As H**l. Can We Hear That?


“I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!”  
--from the 1976 film “Network”

America is angry. Very angry. 

This narrative has dominated the media’s coverage of the election, since it kicked off a little more than a year ago.  Just read the news…about the many, many folks in our land today who are really p.o.’ed. Vexed. Frustrated. Riled up.  Spoiling for a fight. Convinced that things are going in the wrong direction for America and that someone, their candidate, is the one to speak up and out and give voice to this collective ire.

Anger from the left. Anger from the right.  Anger from all sides.

As one who thinks and writes a lot about being in community, I confess I’ve failed to take this civic anger very seriously.  I’ve dismissed it as somehow limited to a small group of hyper-partisan people, citizens on the fringes of national opinion. You know: the cliché livid lefties and rancorous rightists, who always show up at the drop of a hat for any protest.  Who scream until they are hoarse at political rallies and wear their political t-shirts as badges of honor. 

I haven’t always seen this anger as a real phenomenon. Thought it must be a candidate just manipulating his or her followers for votes. Or it’s the media, always pointing the cameras at the most red hot of situations and people, to drive up ratings and internet clicks. Or I reject anger because, honestly, it makes me uncomfortable, especially as a person of faith. I’m in the business of trying to bring folks together in community, not tear them apart.  I want to plead: “Can’t we all just get along?”

But what might happen, if, instead, more and more of us, especially we who are not that angry, took this collective anger seriously?  Saw our “angry” neighbors as sincere, authentic, and very real in their hurt. Looked beyond angry slogans (BUILD A WALL!  WALL STREET IS EVIL!) and got underneath this passion and energy.  Paid attention to the legitimate concerns and gripes and fears of our neighbors. We might realize that while things may be good, even great for “me”, things are not always that great right now for “thee”.

Anger turned inward is despair.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate in the United States is at its highest level in thirty years and has risen by 24 percent since 1999.  A 2015 study by two Princeton University economists found that the life expectancy for middle aged whites with a high school education or less has plummeted since 1999, while almost all other groups have seen an increase in life expectancy.  This group is dying, not just from traditional diseases like heart disease or diabetes, but instead, increasingly, from suicides, drug overdoses, and liver disease related to alcoholism.

When you have no hope; when the factory closes or the mine shuts down, when the company you’ve worked for shutters and then moves overseas, when you see your wages stagnate for a decade, you get angry. And sometimes when no one hears that anger or responds to your protests, you despair.  You escape into substances to numb your fears and concerns. You wonder if any one cares.

Anger turned outward is protest.  So you are a young person, a millennial (those born between the early 1980’s and 2000) and you and your generation goes into debt to the tune of $1.2 trillion, all to go to college. The American Dream is now damn expensive.  One out of four of you are close to, or in default, on those loans. You can’t buy a house or afford to get married or even drive a decent car because you are so deeply in debt.  You lose your health insurance.  You can’t get a job or work two jobs just to stay ahead of your financial black hole.

And then you wonder if anyone beyond your peer group really understands your struggles; if anyone is even listening to your generation, whose experience is so different than that of your parents and grandparents. They had dreams and made them come true. What about us? Will we ever get ahead? You wonder if anyone cares.

Lots of folks in 2016: they are mad as hell and they don’t want to take it anymore. They are angry.  I may not want to hear or face that reality. May not want to try and fathom this anger. After all, I am not so angry. But as a fellow citizen, a neighbor, a friend and a person of faith, I just can’t ignore the anger anymore. 

And you?



Monday, April 25, 2016

Want to Change the World? Be Important in the Life of a Child.


“A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a [child].”          --Forest Witcraft (Boy Scout leader)

Who helped make you, into you? Who are you today, because yesterday someone helped you grow up into the person God made you to be?

Because I know someone taught me how to swing a bat and hit a baseball, a coach many years ago, whose name I can no longer remember. I imagine on a warm spring day he threw pitch after pitch, while I nervously stood at home plate, so many “whiffs”, before I finally made contact with a triumphant “CRACK”! Someone was patient enough to read my pretty bad writing when I was a budding teen author in high school. I can’t recall his name either, but he was my junior year science fiction class teacher, the first person to inspire me to want to be a writer. He sat with me after class, patiently showing me the power of words to tell a story. I do remember a wonderful church youth group advisor named Becky who introduced me to God, not so much by what she said but instead by how I saw her treat other people, all people, with kindness, care and respect.  She was a walking lesson in what it means to be a person of faith.

I wonder if they realized then what a huge difference they made in this one kid’s life by being an adult who took the time to care about me. Someone, other than my parents or blood relatives, who went out of their way to shape the heart and the soul and the hopes of a boy, then a teen, then a young adult. Someone to be my guide. A mentor.  A role model. A friend. 

Makes me wish I could meet them today and thank them for making such a huge difference in my one life. Makes me remember too, that how I live as an adult, in the lives of the kids I am blessed to teach and pastor to and love—I’m now that older guide. One person who can make a difference in this world and actually make it a better place.

Not by making tons of money or crawling up the corporate ladder. Not by penning some hoped for best selling book. Not by having the biggest house on the block or the most self important title in a company or institution.  Not by staring at a screen all day and waiting for the next tweet or update to inflate my ego. No. Instead, as an adult, perhaps the most lasting gift I can leave in this world, to this world, is to help a kid grow up into the young woman or man God wants them to become.   

It’s always tempting, easy to think, that “I” alone made myself into the person I am as an adult. That it was my hard work, or intelligence, or luck, or talent, that got me to the place I now inhabit as a grown up. The myth of being a “self-made” man or woman looms large in our culture.  “I did it my way!” Right? But the truth is that all of us are born as bundles of raw potential. We are not made whole or finished by our God and Creator.  Always we begin life as green horns, rookies and stumblers on the road called growing up. 

That’s why every single kid in this world needs an adult and adults in their lives to care.  Youth in comfy suburbs and the kids in the city too.  We don’t lack for places to have that impact.  Sports teams. The Boys and Girls Clubs. Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Our local houses of worship. Charter schools in Boston. That list is long. Thousands of kids, right now, need someone like you and me to care about them.  The question is: will we be the one to walk with them?

One day you needed a patient teacher to help you figure out how to understand the quadratic equation.  Remember? You needed a Scout leader to show you how to tie a knot or serve a meal at a homeless shelter.  You needed a music teacher to show you how to play the notes.  You needed a spiritual leader to open up your faith life and nurture your soul. 

Someone—you might not even remember their name—he or she helped you when you were young. By caring, they made you, into you.  And now it is your turn.  Generation to generation the world actually gets better and is filled with hope, when we reach back and take the hand of a young person. 

Let that be our life gift to our kids and all kids.  Let that be our legacy.
     



      


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

We Can't Stop Life's Waves. We Can Learn to Surf.


"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn 
to surf."            --John Kabat-Zinn

I’ve got waves on the brain. Not the cerebral kind, but real waves: rolling, roiling, unrelenting, “crashing upon the beach” kind of waves.  My wave wonder happened last weekend, when a wedding brought me to the heart of California’s surf country, Santa Cruz, 60 miles south of San Francisco. Santa Cruz a.k.a. “Surf City”. Rated the number 1 surfing spot in the United States by “Surfer” magazine.  A place of  “gnarly” and “dude”. and the Beach Boys and an endless summer. Think wetsuit clad women and men clutching freshly waxed surfboards, a fiery orange sun rising in the distance, seals frolicking in the surf, and white breakers rising up in a big blue ocean.  For a kid from Boston, who grew up on the beach watching diminutive waves roll in and then roll out, those west coast waves were a revelation. 

They are big. VERY BIG. Just up the coast in Half Moon Bay there is a set of swells called “The Mavericks” that can rise up to sixty feet high. Imagine surfing at the height of a six story building.  Waves are curious natural phenomena, a creation of the tides, the gravitational pull of the moon, underwater geologic features and the weather. Waves can travel thousands of miles across the ocean before landing upon our local shore. Waves can seem elegant, even gentle, but then try and stand fast against a wave and feel its weight smack against your body and you know you’ve faced a power greater than yourself.

And waves…well, they just keep on coming.  They are relentless.  Can’t stop them.  Can’t prevent the natural erosion these cause on beaches and bluffs.  Waves are forward momentum writ large. The author Geoffrey Chaucer was right when he wrote, “Time and tide waits for no man.”

Ask any surfer and they’ll tell you that the key then is to learn just how to surf the wave.  Ride upon it. Catch its energy.  Make peace with the force that creates it and then learn how to just go with the flow.  That’s great wisdom for real life surfers and great wisdom for us humans too, as we stand upon the shores of daily life and watch as the waves roll in. 

Life waves. 

Life can feel like a series of waves, always coming towards us, so powerful, non-negotiable, sometimes wonderful, sometimes awful, but perpetually in motion, and impossible to hold back.  My life wave lately has been facing into the truth of getting older.  Aging.  Time and tide goes in. Time and tide goes out. Repeat. Inside I still feel like a little boy standing on a sun dappled beach with my big brother, both of us skipping rocks, forever young.  But now when I throw that stone too hard, my bum shoulder hurts.  Or I stand upon the shore and wonder just where my life has gone.  Or I regret the things I haven’t done, or won’t ever do.  And the waves keep coming.

Waves.  Our first kid leaves the house for kindergarten or our last kid leaves the house for college.  Waves.  The doctor calls and tells us that the test results are good or the test results are bad.  Waves. The world we inhabit is changing so fast and nothing can hold back the breakneck pace of technological and social change. Waves. 

Waves remind us that while we may hope (even presume) that we have a tight grip upon our lives and can somehow command how our personal waves wash up on the shoreline, the truth is that life is most often governed by great forces far beyond human control. Fate. God. The universe. Luck. Chaos. Timing. Karma. Not that we don’t try to stand up to the wave, or beg it to stop, or even try to run away from it. 

Waves. 

You can learn a lot about life by watching the surfers as they make their way out to the offshore swells.  A few are in over their heads and flounder, but the smart surfer?  She carefully surveys the sea, and looks for the next big wave. Tenaciously paddles, catches a wave, stands up, rides down the tube, even as right above her, the wave threatens to break. She is on, but not over, the edge.  She is in charge by letting go.  And then the wave breaks and the surfer turns back around and she begins all over again. Now that’s a ride.

In life the waves are always coming in too. Nothing--no person, no human effort--can  hold them back.  So my advice? Surf’s up! Grab a board. Get surfing.


  

        

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

When the Mob Rules, Everyone Loses


Mob (noun) 1. a large group or crowd of people who are angry or violent or difficult to control     --Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Have you ever been a part of a crowd that morphs into a mob?  Get swept up into the fervor, passion and “group think”, when a collection of individuals is suddenly transformed into one powerful organism? 

It can be a scary thing.

On Halloween night in my freshman year at college, I and several thousand costumed revelers (many very inebriated) were packed into the student union building, jammed tight into a space designed for far fewer folks. There were raucous yelps and whoops and screams. I got separated from my friends and at one point was crushed against a wall.  Furniture was overturned. Finally I was able to squeeze out a side door and escape.  That experience made me never, ever want to be a part of any such mob again, or any big crowd that takes on a life of its own.    

What strikes me most about that mob, all mobs, many crowds, is how fast a collection of “I’s” can turn into one big frightening “we”.  How in the collective, folks often lose or forget about the ability to think for themselves.  How people behave in ways they’d never normally do so, if not for the rabble, and the cover that a crowd can gives folks to act up and act out. 

That’s why at sports games I’ll sometimes slip out before the end, to avoid having to jostle along with so many overly boisterous fans. That’s why when I’m in a big crowd, I always scope out the nearest exit, just in case. And that’s why you’ll rarely if ever see me at any political rally, for any cause or any candidate.  

We are in the year of the crowd and the mob in our elections and politics in America, more so than at any other time I can remember. On the news and on the net, the story always plays out the same.  The anointed political king or queen prepares to stand triumphant before his or her subjects in some cavernous space. The backdrop is a sea of red, white and blue to ensure the secular congregation that their candidate is all wrapped up in the flag. A cliché rock ballad plays as the “messiah” enters.  On cue, colorful signs pop up and are waved back and forth by frenzied acolytes.  Then a canned opening, almost always the same, with a few tweaks for the locals. “Thank you _________! (Fill in applicable location) It’s great to be here!”    

And then inevitably, the red meat that everyone has been waiting for: naming just who is really to blame for all of our nation’s ills.  The enemy.  “Them”. Make a list. Mexicans, folks with New York values, immigrants, Wall Street, wide eyed liberals, heard hearted conservatives, the rich, big banks, etc., etc., etc. Then the crowd answers back, feverishly chants the candidate’s name or “USA! USA!” like some war cry. Then the cliché endings. “And may God Bless the United States of America!” and/or “And now on to ______!”  Cue inspiring exit music. The worst part is we have seven more months of these overblown spectacles to look forward to. Yuck. Count me out.

All of the candidates—every single last one—plays thus to the crowd and sometimes to a mob too, in a dance of contrived political theater.  The overwhelming collective emotion expressed at these rallies is anger. Red hot anger, even rage.  No one gets a pass this election cycle. We are in the year of p____ed off politics, when so much of the time, self righteous civic energy sets the tone. 

Worst of all, there seems to be little or no talk of the common good from the candidates or the voters.  No discussions about working or coming together, or seeking common ground, or reaching across the aisle. Instead some days it feels like every thing and every one is “fair” game: race, class, sexual orientation, region, and gender.  Red state/blue state.  North/south. Religious/secular. 

Far too often, the revved up crowd or worse, the mob, rules.

But the truth is that mobs can’t rule, ever, not unless we seek perpetual social chaos. It doesn’t matter if it’s a religion, a nation, a corporation, an institution or any social movement.  At some point, for us to live up to the best in ourselves, we need to leave the mob, the crowd. We need join together to form true community. One in which we respectfully listen to “the other”, especially when their ideas differ from our own.  A community where compromise is the goal, not just confrontation.  A community where we think for ourselves and then seek what is best for “we” and not just “me”.  A community where leaders actually lead, with humility, and not just hubris. 

Here’s my hope. The mob doesn’t have to rule.  In the days leading up to next November 8th, I pray that we can remember this ideal together.  “No” to the mob.  “Yes” to community.