I must admit that I have had moments of complete disbelief and deep shame about how awful my fellow human beings can be after December 14th. From the shooting itself to the horrible comments and emails that have been sent to my mother or posted on articles regarding the tragedy, doing nothing more than seeking to provoke anger and cause more hurt to these grieving families. Even some of the Facebook pages memorializing these beautiful little children have been shut down because of the nastiness of the posts and comments. I did not think that humans could be so low as to spend their energy writing ghastly things about this unimaginable tragedy.
I’ve tried to keep strong in the hope that we are not so awful, that we do not have to give into the negativity and despair that surrounds us. But it’s hard to not cave in. Then, an unexpected offer came around and I had the pleasure of joining my mother for a last minute trip to the 2013 Inauguration in Washington, DC this past weekend. There were so many stories that I would love to share, but most important, I want to share the feeling that surrounded us this weekend. Something happened when I was there that was more profound to me than simply witnessing history.
My faith in people and humanity has been renewed.
Everyone treated everyone else with respect. And it was genuine. It was truly amazing.
Now, I know that the reason really is because pretty much every person we came into contact with this weekend was of the same general political persuasion. And everyone was there to celebrate President Obama’s Inauguration. It wasn’t just a typical weekend in Washington, DC. Plus, it seemed that many of the people we met over the course of 36 hours were from the South. Maybe that explains the warmth and general kindness.
Whatever the underlying reason or cause, the spirit of human beings was so clear.
It didn’t matter if you were rich or poor, black or white, old or young, gay or straight, everyone was so kind and warm to each other.
There was no pushing and shoving to get onto crowded metros, everyone expended the extra effort to make sure no one was left behind. People who only met each other for 10 seconds laughed together, extended hands, hugged, etc. A young man dropped a $20 out of his pocket and people immediately came over and said “hey bro, you dropped your money.”
If someone called out “excuse me!” 20 people turned around to see how they could help. If someone calls out “excuse me!” on a normal day in NY, NJ or CT, most people would turn the other way. (I’m not saying that the Tri-Staters are bad people, but to blatantly generalize, we are a little rude).
People don’t stop to help often, people avoid eye contact and conversation, if you are in an elevator with another person, you look at your phone to avoid conversation, if someone bumps into you on the street, you get angry, etc.
We judge people very harshly and focus on their flaws rather than their attributes. Why? Because it makes ourselves feel better? Or because it’s easier to be judgmental than accepting?
We spent almost 3 hours in our seats waiting for the event to begin and we were having a great time with our fellow Americans. People shared blankets if they were cold, they complimented each other’s attire, they told stories, and laughed together.
We met so many people who had stories, backgrounds and amazingly welcome personalities. The cold air was just filled with warm camaraderie.
We got a lot of “yes, ma’am” and “you got that right, sister”
My mother has a lot on her plate, to say the least. I am so happy for her that she had this opportunity. In the car ride back home, she said to me that she wouldn’t have gone if I hadn’t offered to join her. She remarked about how amazing the entire experience was.
“Holly, never in my lifetime did I think that we would see an African American president. And here we are, on Martin Luther King Day, attending the inauguration for his second term!
She also warned:
“Don’t ever think we cannot go backwards. And don’t think that the love, charity and human spirit that we witnessed this weekend is going to spread anywhere near the magnitude that we wish it would.”
I do wish we could spread it. I wish we could show everyone what it was like to be there. No matter what your political affiliation is, I wish everyone could feel what it’s like to be surrounded by warmth and kindness.
The reason we were given the tickets to go in the first place was out of a horrible tragedy. We spent part of our time there with the family of a young victim. They are amazingly wonderful people. They said why wouldn’t they accept the offer of the tickets? Why not find a way to celebrate hope in this time of immeasurable pain?
Speaking with them, talking to the clergymen present with the family, speaking with the counselors helping the victims, then living the moments that we lived during the actual inauguration itself, it left this new hope in our humankind.
The human spirit is amazingly resilient. But it only is so when it’s filled with hope, not anger. The people we were surrounded by these two days are focused on always making things better rather than giving up hope.
I look at the 26 Acts of Kindness and the Sandy Hook Promise and hope we can take those thoughts, those mantras, and change who we are from this day forward. Forever.
Every day, we can pause and focus our energy on what positive can be done. We can promise ourselves to reserve judgment for others and strive to be better ourselves. We can stay positive about the minor flaws or missteps we make every day and push to start anew when we wake up the next morning.
We have to start treating each other like neighbors, fellow citizens and human beings again. Let’s work on that message every day and allow ourselves to listen instead of always talking. Allow ourselves to feel empathy instead of fear, jealousy and just plain hatred.
Let us take this moment – after we’ve witnessed a divisive election full of fear and personal attacks and endured an unthinkable tragedy in one of the most ideal towns in America – and let us make a promise to be better human beings. Promise to be compassionate and hear what others are saying. Promise to discuss and disagree peacefully instead of exuding hate.
As a parent, I am promising myself that I will show my children hope and compassion by living that example. I want my kids to live in a less angry world someday, so I promise to do my part.
I’m making that promise and using my energy to try to get others to do the same. Please join me.