Tomorrow is election day, which means for the last several months, politicians and talking heads have force fed us dogmatic assertions and simple-sounding "solutions" to our nation’s most pressing problems. And most of us are happy to open wide and take it all in.
But have you noticed that every election cycle, we find ourselves voting for the latest quick fixes to the same age-old “issues”? Issues like abortion, addiction, child abuse, crime, education, fatherlessness, health care, homelessness, immigration, inflation, poverty, suicide, and unemployment, to name a few.
We pontificate about these crises as if they happen in a vacuum and lose sight of the fact that every issue begins with people in pain. We tweet and post and shout our theoretical solutions. But there are no theoretical people – only real humans with stories and struggles, without whom there are no issues to argue about.
So, if we want to create lasting change that helps people flourish instead of flounder, we need to go to the source and start with compassion.
As a breast cancer survivor and nonprofit director, I’ve seen suffering up close and personal. I can attest that when we look in their eyes and humble ourselves enough to listen and learn, these precious sufferers have much to teach us.
They need help, yes. But more than that, they need hope. They need a reason to go on, a reason to believe that their one real broken and battered life matters, and assurance that their heavy burdens won’t always feel this crushing.
And we’re expecting the government to do that? Really?
I think there’s a better way. Let’s start with the broken parts of our hearts and stories and reach out from there. We know intuitively that we are most able to help others in areas where we have suffered ourselves.
Since my breast cancer experience, I have many new “bosom buddies”, as we call ourselves. We bonded because we’ve all walked that road. The same holds true for divorcees, parents who have lost children, recovering addicts, single moms, and veterans. When you’ve been in a dark place, you can see more clearly to help others find the light.
There are faith-based and nonprofit organizations that address every imaginable issue. So, let’s not waste our pain.
Volunteer. Donate. Mentor. Serve. Listen. Love.
I’m not suggesting that we serve sufferers in lieu of voting or that we completely abandon a political path. Research the candidates and ballot measures and, by all means, vote! It’s our right and our duty. We should absolutely educate ourselves about the policies and legislation that affect these pain points.
I’m simply saying we might have the process a little backwards.
What if we followed Jesus’s example and started by simply noticing the beaten and bruised in our world?
What if we touched the hurting – literally and metaphorically – and allowed ourselves to be touched by them?
What if we stopped treating people like projects and just met them where they are?
What if we prayed brutally honest prayers, then trusted God, who is in all and over all? The God who loves the whole world not just in some detached macro way, but in an intimate one-hurting-person-at-a-time way.
Call me crazy, but if we did that, I think things could change. And we just might discover our purpose in the process.