November has been a tough month. I lost my brother Eric, who died from a massive stroke on November 1. A week later, on election day, his son turned ten. With a little time to sort through what felt like too much to process in a short time, a few things became crystal clear.
The extraordinary listening and kindness extended to me has made all the difference as I grapple with this great loss. So many people are hurting. To heal our deep divisions, we need to do the same things: listen far better and be kind. We are so segregated in this country. It’s hard for people who live in cities to understand people in rural areas—and vice versa. Huge misunderstandings and misinformation exist between racial and religious groups. Men and women struggle to understand each other, falling short so much of the time. Young people and older people often fail to understand each other’s realities.
We cannot expect the politicians to do the necessary healing. People are different—in how they live, what they experience and in the ways they see the world. Much as we may want to totally understand each other, we cannot walk in anyone else’s shoes. What we can do is trust what people say, believe their experiences—and validate them. It doesn’t mean that we can’t or shouldn’t speak our truth. It requires open-mindedness and better communication. All of it: being present, listening more carefully, speaking our truth requires extraordinary effort and courage. We are all capable, however. It is what we want from other people. We want to be listened to, understood and treated with respect and kindness. If we started with the Golden Rule, that would be a huge step forward.
The politics of fear and anger are more potent after this election, but Americans have always been capable of extraordinary things. People from both sides of the political divide can do this— listen with bigger hearts and more kindness. These efforts make all the difference. We have extraordinary skills and together we can summon our courage and resolve. Our very democracy depends on it.