What the world needs now…

By Scott Westerman
 It’s been a week off the grid recentering with my family and a time to ponder some of the things that that the world needs now.

When I see the often overt hate speech that proliferates so freely in the pseudo anonymity of social media I feel two powerful emotions: anger and sadness.

I am angry that any person would so hurtfully denigrate another due to the color of their skin, how they choose to love, their ethnicity or their political beliefs. And I am sad that so many jump on bandwagons of hate without a second thought. Criss Jami notes that, “The only thing more frustrating than slanderers is those foolish enough to listen to them.” And too many listen without thinking.

What the world needs now is thoughtful people – Slow to judge, courageous enough to share constructive feedback, and quick to forgive.

So challenge every paradigm. When someone alleges something shocking, dig deeper to understand the context. Be careful in judgement, especially if the other person has lived a different experience than yours. Ask meaningful questions designed to clarify and not to incite additional negativity. And consider how forgiveness may be the key to clearing suffering from your own heart. The ultimate benefit of forgiveness often comes to the the one doing the forgiving.

As a youth growing up in the 1960s, my father repeatedly reminded me not to judge the many by the behaviors of the few. He taught me about Dr. King, Shirley Chisholm, Caesar Chavez and the other names who were becoming legendary in real time during my youth. My parents were activists who preached two powerful messages:  We are at our best when we can create an environment of opportunity for all. And that as individuals we an be a positive force for change.

Hate can’t survive in such an environment and creating it begins in our own hearts.

“You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining,” Congresswomen Chisholm wrote. “You make progress by implementing ideas.”

And that requires faith.

What the world needs now is faith – Faith that good can ultimately overcome evil and love can conquer hate.

Real change is very hard to implement. Entrenched interests, prejudice and ignorance are powerful impediments. Change often foments fear. When we live in fear we can’t focus on faith.

It’s easy for fear to invade even the strongest constitutions. The problems we face often feel so huge and complicated that it’s hard to know where to begin to address them. And so it is with the challenge of finding faith in fearful times.

Start small. Find your faith first in the little things. This week, Colleen and I began each morning with a beach walk, contemplating the steadfast beauty and power of the ocean and the transformative majesty of a sunrise. Holding hands, we felt deep gratitude for a partnership of over 40 years where faith in our union helped us through the though times and filled us with gratitude in the good times.

Our wonderful granddaughter, not quite 2, has the extra gene associated with Down Syndrome. Although she does not yet speak our language and has her own way of perambulating, we have learned volumes from her about communication, awareness, affection and getting to where you want to be. We are grateful that she does not have the many health challenges that often come with DNA like hers.  And  she’s taught us to enjoy the blessings of “the scenic route”. That route has already revealed more treasures and wonderful memories than we could have imagined.

We have faith that she will live a long and meaningful life. In the brief time she’s been with us, this tiny angel has already deeply enriched ours.

Therefore, remember the wisdom of Mother Teresa: “Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

What the world needs now is resilience.

The powerful social movements of our day are reminders that the vast majority of us have survived unfair and unfortunate treatment. And each of us has caused pain, often inadvertently. We can choose to harbor energy sucking anger about all of this. Or we can channel our experience to transform who we are and become role models to help transform the world.

Despite our best efforts to be good servants, there will always be someone trying to spin our goodness in negative ways. Almost always, within these individuals is great suffering that unfortunately manifests in ways that hurt others. When we begin to understand that everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about, we can also better practice forgiveness. Our own setbacks are inevitable and can be valuable learning experiences. A lifetime of working to be a better person can only be shattered by circumstance if you let it.

Kent M. Keith, a philosopher I had the pleasure of meeting years ago, wrote his ‘Paradoxical Commandments” on a napkin while in college. Today they circulate the globe as wisdom thousands turn to for strength. I treasure them all, but my favorite is, “Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. – Give the world the best you have anyway.”

The scars each of us carry mean we were stronger than whatever tried to hurt us. Think of each of them as badges of honor, earned in the eternal battle between good and evil. Whatever curve balls life throws at you, keep breathing and keep doing good things… anyway.

One of my favorite George Harrison albums is “All Things Must Pass“.  Time heals all wounds and wounds all heels. And all things must pass. As author Timber Hawkeye writes in his terrific book, Buddhist Boot Camp, “If you focus on the pain you will continue to suffer, if you focus on the lesson you will continue to grow. Choose wisely.”

And finally..

What the world needs now is love.

That’s the title of the great 1965 Burt Bacharach / Hal David hit first made popular by Jackie DeShannon.

Caesar Chavez spoke a great truth that I’ve never forgotten: “You are never strong enough that you don’t need help.”

Seeking help is an act of courage. Helping another person is the ultimate act of love.

Surround yourself with people who know you for who you really are and share your ideals. And gently remove the negative and the judgemental from your relationship portfolio. Life is short. Change what you can change, accept what you can’t change and, most importantly, remove yourself from the unacceptable. Invest the bulk of your time on projects in sync with your purpose and in people who care as much about you as you do about them. Help one another and watch the magic happen.

We live in a world where many would seek do divide us for their personal gain. Let us find ways to unite together. As Dr. King taught us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Spread love and light whenever and wherever you can.

We live in a world where despite your best efforts to serve with honor, there will always be someone who may try to spin your truth in a different direction. Keep trying, keep going and keep the faith. The right path will ultimately become clear and time and tenacity will take you in the right direction.

And if you’re feeling like you’ll never make it, remember the words of Shannon L. Adler. “You will face your greatest opposition when you are closest to your biggest miracle.”

We live in a world that is in desperate need of miracles.

And what the world needs now… is You.