Staying Strong in Challenging Times
We live in turbulent times, when injustice is piled upon injustice, when assaults on human rights are public policy, when bigotry is encouraged by those who should provide moral leadership, and when the institutions that are supposed to offer protection are used to harm and enshrine injustice.
I got to talking about all this with my colleague and friend, Rose Vines, to sharing how it makes us feel. That conversation led to a much broader conversation on Facebook and Twitter: How do we keep working for justice and a healthy, peaceful world when the odds look insurmountable? Below, you can follow along as that conversation develops.
My original Facebook post:
This is my original post on Facebook and Twitter (You can find the conversation on Facebook here.)
Are you feeling pummeled by recent events? Dispirited? Despairing? Numbed?
Did something in the past couple of weeks feel like the last straw – perhaps the sight of children and parents torn apart by a cruel immigration policy; or the Supreme Court upholding Trump’s Muslim immigration ban; or a series of decisions that limit workers’ rights; or another unarmed young black man shot by police; or Justice Kennedy’s decision to retire?
I’m feeling it, too, and I’d like to take the time to answer any questions you might have about how to survive, how to continue to strive for a better world, when it all feels too much. How do we turn a tide of assaults on human life and dignity into an opportunity to become stronger?
I’ll spend some time in the next few weeks answering your questions, so put them in the comments to this post, or send them to me at email@example.com.
And please – please! – share your own wisdom about how to stay strong and be a force for good in trying times.
Follow-up 1: Reach out or you’ll get stuck
Follow-up 2: A listening technique
Treating despair as a call to act
I’ve never felt this type of despair and I honestly don’t know what I can do. Vote, but that’s not till November. Part of me wants to storm the detention centers, take to the street, foment a revolution, but I also know those actions would not have a result that makes these situations better. I don’t do well with feeling helpless. I live in a blue area of a blue state so calling my political representatives seems redundant since they typically support the things I believe in. So I go to work every day and live my life and rail against these atrocities. I give money when and where I can. I vote. I speak out. But what am I really doing? What else can I do. Please tell me. Because I feel like those in Nazi Germany who stood on the side lines wringing their hands.
Sister Helen's response
The last few weeks have been very difficult. I’m a liberal American, a privileged white guy whose path has been set out for him, and my journey has been easy in this life. I want what I’ve had for everyone else in America, and I want my son to be a better and more successful and caring person than I am.
And then it all comes crashing down when you hear the innocent cries of children separated from their moms. And it’s being done in our name, in my name.
It is a dark night of the soul to be sure.
When I despair, I turn to my notebook which I’ve filled with a collection of reflective poems, quotes and other bits of thoughts. I’ve attached some of them for you to share. Next, I look at pictures of monuments to the people who built the world we live in now…Lincoln Memorial for instance…so that I can remind myself that things have been worse and we’ve recovered as a people. And then I think of the earth, our blue-green marbled jewel hanging in a sunbeam, and I think of Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, and I reflect on the fact that no one is coming to help us, we’re all alone on space ship earth flying through the cosmos, and it’s on us to live amongst one another, and love one another, and take the next step in humanity together and leave the world a better place than we found it.
Strangely, I next think of the Voyager probes in space. I think about how they testify to our existence, our ingenuity, our curiosity and basic decency, and always will, even if life perishes on earth. And I think how they, even as I type this, the Voyager Probes stay on mission and on task. That comforts me for some odd reason.
By this point, the tears stop, and I’ve found a sense of purpose again: leave the world better than I found it. Testify to the goodness of humanity. Resist those who hurt my brothers and sisters. A sense of purpose and mission renewed, I continue the fight.
Sister Helen's response
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You are such an inspiration! Thank God for you! You are about the only good news on Twitter these days. My husband and I have decided that our solution on how to survive this is unfortunately to move out of the US. We will be applying for a visa to Canada this Fall and hope to move in the next 1-1.5 years. We cannot continue to live in a country which prioritizes profits over humanity and does not value all human beings. For those who cannot leave, I think the answer is community and to love and rely on each other and of course vote and be a good human being. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to survive what is going on in our country right now – which in many ways has been going on a long time I just didn’t realize it but it now exposed on a daily basis.