something is always bigger

As is typical in our family, my spouse and I sat down the other evening to catch the day’s sporting events — bouncing between baseball’s league championship series and the start of the professional basketball season. Truth told, pro basketball doesn’t always keep my attention; it sometimes seems like defense is only played the last ten minutes of the game. But in solely the first six minutes of the season, our eyes were glued to the television. I wish they had not been so glued.

The Celtics were playing the Cavaliers in Cleveland, and not halfway through the first quarter, star free agent pickup, Boston’s Gordon Hayward, went up for a routine alley-oop — a play he’s probably made hundreds of times — and in one of the most grisly injuries to watch unfold, Hayward landed awkwardly, his ankle contorted underneath him, fracturing both his ankle and left tibia.

Happening in front of the opposing team, the Cavaliers’ bench responded in immediate, unprecedented queasiness, scrambling to look away. It was grisly and gruesome indeed… an injury that should be wished upon no one.

Note the immediate wishes from all over the sports spectrum…

For @gordonhayward. Come back stronger!
     — from Steph Curry

God bless you bro @gordonhayward ! help him thru this god!
 — from Paul George

Never like to see that. Best wishes to @gordonhayward
 — from soccer’s Jody Altidore

Praying for my guy @gordonhayward!!! NEVER want to see any of the guys go through anything like that.
 — from DeAndre Jordan

NBA | Heartbreak for #GordonHayward but beautiful to see the NBA Community come together for him. Our thoughts and prayers are with you
— from award-winning broadcaster Benny Bonsu

Lord , Carry Him Now @gordonhayward
— from Dwight Howard

No no no no no no………. praying everything is okay…
— from Jared Sullinger

Gordon and Robyn, our thoughts are with you and your family. All of Jazz Nation sending best wishes for a speedy recovery.
 — from the Utah Jazz, Hayward’s former team

Never want to see that man!#thoughtsandprayers
 — from Zach LaVine

@gordonhayward. Only God has ALL the answers.
— from Shaun Livingston

@gordonhayward prayin for u my brother.
 — from Odell Beckham, Jr.

Prayers to @gordonhayward @celtics hope people will understand better that NOTHINGS guaranteed in the game we love
 — from Bruce Bowen

Wow… that’s horrific… feel awful for Hayward
   — from Jeremy Lin

Can’t even put into words.
Gordon Hayward.
Feeling for you man.
Absolutely gut wrenching.
 — from JJ Watt

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Gordon Hayward. #BiggerThanBasketball
 — from the Cleveland Cavaliers

Absolutely gut wrenching. Never like to see that. Feel awful…
Injury should be wished upon no one. I hope we get that. I pray, too, we can always be graceful, wishing another well, even in opposition, realizing something is always “bigger” — in far more than basketball. I thus also pray our emotion and opposition wouldn’t keep us from extending the wisdom and warmth embedded within such beautiful (and beautifully contagious) grace.


offended? free speech?

My oldest son is a junior at the University of Florida.

Today, there will be a man speaking on campus who is incredibly controversial. He has repeatedly articulated some shockingly divisive rhetoric. Meet Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, who promotes white superiority and thus identity politics.

What should the university do?

Spencer tends to attract supporters and protestors who have a perceived increased propensity for violence. Most of the supporters and protestors reportedly will not be associated with the university in any way.

Again, my son is there.

(When we are directly affected — when our friends or family are affected — we tend to be more passionate… less objective… and maybe even less tolerant of different opinion or approach. Which leads to today’s clunkiest sentence: who we love most, who is affected the most, most affects our perspective and response.)

To be clear, Spencer was not invited by the university; his organization rented space on campus, and because UF is a public and not private university, any denial of Spencer speaking would raise a First Amendment issue.

Isn’t that the crux of much of the current conflict?

There is a battle going on in regard to how much free speech we should allow.

Remember that protest, too, is a form of speech.

So… how much free speech should we allow?

… especially when it offends us. To offend is to wholeheartedly disrespect.

The challenge is that “to offend” is also an incredibly vague verb. It’s totally subjective. What’s offensive to some is not necessarily offensive to another. We get to pick and choose what we’re offended by, and we typically don’t have as much patience with another person’s offense, as it’s simply easier to dismiss another’s rationale rather than attempt to sincerely understand why they feel differently.

While it would have been easier for the University of Florida to deny Spencer’s speaking — especially since university president W. Kent Fuchs has soundly denounced Spencer’s rhetoric — the school has instead decided to “lead the way.”

Said Fuchs two days ago: “I urge our campus community to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech, while allowing for differing opinions… It is up to every student, faculty member, staff member, and myself to demonstrate our university values of respect and inclusion in all that we do. We have an opportunity to lead the way.”

I will share that such has not been a popular opinion with a vocal contingent of parents. Several from their understandable bent — no doubt because their sons and daughters are affected — want the university to do more… from shutting Spencer down to calling off class for the day. Note that the school is incurring $500,000 in security costs and bringing in significantly more law enforcement, attempting to be as prepared as possible for any violence.

What I also see is that the University of Florida believes in the totality of education. They want their students to learn to think on their own, preparing them for the world that awaits after these four some years; some of what awaits is not pretty and seems to be getting worse. The school seems clear, no less — as much as they disagree with this divisive antagonist — that they do not need to become an echo chamber, a place where students are only exposed to ideas with which they agree.

Ok, deep breath. Time to allow this to unfold. Time for this parent to say a prayer or two…

For the safety of the students in Gainesville…

For each of us… to join together, respect one another and promote positive speech… while allowing for differing opinions…


change your questions

“Every change — big or small — typically begins with a new question.”

— Dr. Marilee Adams, Author of “Change Your Questions Change Your Life” (a longtime Intramuralist favorite)

Most of us seem to crave some sort of change, especially in regard to the seemingly surfeit of increasing societal schisms today.

Hence, today… only questions…

25 to be exact.

  1. Do I really respect all people?
  2. If my opinion supports one people group but disrespects another, is there anything about my opinion or its expression that I need to change?
  3. Am I living in an echo chamber? If so, why won’t I exit?
  4. Am I committed to dialogue?
  5. Where am I stuck?
  6. Where am I wrong?
  7. Where have I refused to acknowledge that I have more to learn?
  8. How can I love my “neighbor” more?
  9. Where am I destroying community as opposed to fostering it?
  10. What bias is within me?
  11. What agenda-driven news sources are impeding my objectivity?
  12. Is social media helping?
  13. How does my behavior need to change?
  14. Who do I have trouble giving grace to? Why?
  15. Where do I point fingers only at others and avoid examination of self?
  16. Have I forgotten that even a stopped clock is right twice a day?
  17. Who have I justified loving less?
  18. Where I have I allowed ethnicity, political standing, or anything to get in the way?
  19. Where am I refusing to listen?
  20. Am I a “learner” or a “judger”?
  21. Do I ask “what assumptions am I making” or “whose fault is it”?
  22. Do I ask “what are they thinking, feeling and wanting” or “why are they always so dumb and irritating”?
  23. Who is holding me accountable? Am I submissive to anyone?
  24. Have I translated my individual experience into truth for all others? And…
  25. What unintentional consequences is my behavior, opinion, or the current expression of my opinion having?

Want solution?

Want to navigate wisely through some of the tough issues currently set before us?

“Every change — big or small — typically begins with a new question.”

Maybe we should consider changing our questions.


ideology’s corruption

First, two definitions…

(1) echo chamber (n.) – An environment in which a person encounters only beliefs or opinions that coincide with their own, so that their existing views are reinforced and alternative ideas are not considered.

And (2) dialogue (n.) – An exchange of ideas or opinions on a particular issue, especially a political or religious issue, with a view to reaching an amicable agreement or settlement.

Question: do we actually want to solve our existing societal issues? … the political strife, the racial tension, the ever-increasing list of socio-economic debates? Note that only one of the above pursues solution. The echo chambers — the social media circles, chat rooms, and Facebook threads that are only gracious and inviting to likeminded ideology — do not solve the problems plaguing us today. They only reverberate the sound of our own opinions, which encourages ideology adherence. From The Witherspoon Institute’s Randall Smith in his poignant discussion of “Ideology and the Corruption of Language”.

“… How do we recognize the language of ‘ideology’ and distinguish it from a ‘principled position’? One common clue is that those who hold a principled position welcome arguments; they welcome having their position tested and possibly corrected. A principled position always has room for increased subtlety and greater complexity. Holders of an ‘ideology,’ on the other hand, will tend to eschew argument or any examination of the ideology’s underlying presuppositions or premises, often refusing to concede that greater subtlety may be required to apply the principles to real-life situations. Ideology disdains argument; people with principled positions embrace it warmly and engage in it gladly.

Note, however, that ‘engaging in argument’ is not the same as a dual monologue or sharing complaints about opponents. If you’re unsure what a dialogue is supposed to sound like, read one of Plato’s. Socrates is as good a teacher of dialogue as anyone who ever lived. Personally, I suggest beginning with the ‘Gorgias.’

In the ‘Gorgias,’ Socrates defends ‘dialectic’ (the question-and-answer method he engages in with interlocutors) and distinguishes it from ‘sophistry.’ What Plato especially disliked about sophistry was its corruption of language: the belief that language was not primarily for the expression of truth but for the acquisition of power. Sophists bragged that they could convince the ignorant masses of anything, even better than people who were experts on a subject. How did they do this? By twisting words and using language to inflame the passions rather than to engage the logic of the mind. Appeal to fear and play on people’s anxiety, never asking them to think about the evidence for your claims or reflect on the possible unintended consequences of a course of action.

This corruption of language is a characteristic sign of ideology. Throughout the Platonic dialogues, Socrates spends a great deal of time trying to clarify words, attempting to get clear on what people mean when they use terms such as ‘good’ or ‘just’ or ‘great.’ Ideologies want to skip over all that hard work. Asking what someone means by ‘good’ or ‘just’ or ‘fair’ is, to the devoted ideologue, like the greengrocer refusing to put the sign in his window. It suggests you’re not a party member.

Watch out for this. Refusing to discuss one’s terms because the point is ‘obvious,’ insisting on using euphemisms rather than plain speech, relying on a very specialized vocabulary and being unable to express one’s thoughts without it, using speech to vilify persons rather than to clarify positions: these are all clues that you’re dealing with ideology, not principle.”

Ideology’s corruption of language does not pursue solution. In fact, while justifying loving treatment toward some, it is accompanied by the unintended consequence of unloving treatment toward some others.

How many times have we heard or said, “I cannot have one more conversation in which they don’t realize the point is obvious!… I cannot have political debates with these people! Our disagreement is not merely political; it’s a fundamental divide on what it means to be good!” And with that we label the other person as either arrogant, ignorant or compassionless. We justify no more dialogue, assuming only we are good.

As an advocate of respectful dialogue, allow me to encourage the hard work. Allow me to encourage the investment in dialogue, the sincere wrestling with unlike opinion, and the exit from echo chambers. Echo chambers are easy, as the reverberation of like opinion never challenges us to consider the wisdom of another approach. Think about the evidence for our own claims and reflect upon the possible unintended consequences of a course of action. Encounter others sincerely, selflessly. Clarify. Don’t vilify. Listen well. And do nothing that justifies loving another less — such as refusing to have “one more conversation.”


for all this

As a follow up to Tuesday’s acknowledgment that “Something’s Wrong,” it doesn’t take long to get lured into focusing upon all that is wrong; it’s too heavy and too much. Hence, I am thankful when something shocks me out of it. For example…

This past weekend we celebrated my youngest’s 16th birthday. It was sweet and celebratory, affirming and fun. But after three days of celebrating, this typically enthusiastic parent added “exhausted” to the list.

The reason we celebrate for three days, no less, is because of who Josh is… because of how God made him… because we remember when he was born… and because of how incredible much we have learned both from him and through him. Two years ago, I wrote about Josh’s birthday. It is wise to read again…


A long standing premise of the Intramuralist is to consistently advocate for a focus on all that is good and true and right. In fact, one of our cultural challenges it seems, is that both individually and corporately, we spend so much energy and attention on that which is not good and true and right… division… strife… evil… impurity… a lack of loyalty and/or faithfulness, etc. Such takes up way too much of our time, minds, and airwaves.

“… whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things…”

My now 14 year old son, Josh — that child born years ago with an extra special need, chromosome, and a wall missing in is heart — is one of the best, most effective ways God teaches me now in regard to all that is good and true and right.

As expected, no less, this joy-filled teen’s birthday included music and dancing, cake and cookies, and multiple friends and family. He received many day-brightening gifts, calls, texts, and visits that made his heart so obviously overflow with thanks. (It made this parent even need a nap.)

Yet the moment that seemed most “blog-worthy” was seemingly small in comparison. It was just a singular sentence — a comment Josh made before the festivities were in full swing; yet it was a moment that is still making me think…

Standing outside briefly before the sunrise, in between our daily repertoire of song and dance preceding the much anticipated school bus arrival, Josh stopped his singing, pausing for a moment of thanks. He wanted to give God thanks for the celebration of the day — and more.

And in the middle of that moment — in this conversation I felt deeply privileged to overhear — Josh stopped, leaned somewhat backwards, grinning from ear to ear, and pointing meekly to himself said:

“And God, thanks for all this.”

Thanks for all this.

There was no focus on what some may see as missing.
There was no ignoring of current circumstances.
There was no dismissal of having Down syndrome.
There was no wishing he was someone or something else.
There was no desire to be any different.
There was only a joy-laced expression of gratitude for who he is…

Thanks for all this.

Whatever is true… whatever is lovely… think about these things…


something’s wrong

“He said it all the time… when we left the car, heading to school… arriving home from something — anything… both a greeting and a goodbye… it was a signal, a statement, an awareness of peace…”

Some words are difficult to fully define, be that because the application is so vast, the history so rich, or the concept so huge.

I speak of something that affects us all. Regardless of where we come from, what we believe, what we have in common or what we don’t, we can’t deny that this affects us.


It’s a word that transcends both generation and geography… religion and relationship…


In English, shalom refers to peace between two entities or the peace, well-being or welfare of a person, group or circumstance. The Hebrew definition adds in the concepts of harmony, tranquility, wholeness and prosperity. In Arabic, it’s called “salaam,” and the Maltese say “sliem.” Shalom affects us all.

Take note, for example, at some of the more significant, current issues, events and developments…

  • A man murders the innocent masses from his luxury hotel room…
  • People argue about the right to life, debating gun control — or abortion…
  • People argue about the right to protest when America’s anthem is played…
  • An “A-list” film producer stands accused of decades of harassment…
  • North Korea festers…
  • Politicians fight…
  • Others join in, justifying insults in the fight…
  • There are tumultuous hurricanes — sometimes even in the weather…
  • There is tension…
  • Poverty… hunger, too…

Something is wrong.

In a phrase coined not by me, it seems we are witnessing “the vandalism of shalom” right before our very eyes, played out daily in the mass and social media. Something has pierced our peace. Something has disturbed our overall welfare and well-being. This is clearly not the way it is supposed to be.

And you know what strikes me most profoundly here?

You don’t have to know God or even believe in him to feel the vandalism of shalom. In other words, it takes zero faith to realize there’s something wrong. Shalom seems nonexistent.

Let’s be clear then that with the hugeness of its meaning, its vast application and history so rich, shalom is far more than the absence of conflict.

If not, we could simply silence all dissenters. We could arrest all who disagree. We could embrace the principles of dictatorship or despotism, where a single entity holds absolute power and authority, and we could demand everyone act and think like we do so we never, ever must wrestle with alternate perspective or unlike behavior again. But the squelching and thus complete disrespect of others has never proven to be an effective pathway for peace. Likemindedness — obtained via demandingness and disrespect — is not fruitful, effective nor wise.

As often stated here, friends, the Intramuralist is an advocate for community. I believe wholeheartedly in the value of community. I believe we are to grow up in it, invest in it, and sharpen one another. Note that I didn’t say a “likeminded, look/feel/think/act alike community.” There is so much we can learn from those who are “unlike me.”

That said, grieved by the current state of community around us, I have been profoundly challenged in recent days to seek shalom in my community. How do we do that? How do we contribute positively to the peace, wholeness, and harmony of where we live? … in our nation? … in our neighborhood? … in our homes? … in our hobbies?

And… humbly… in a post that offers more questions than answers…

How are we contributing to the vandalism of shalom?

“…He said it all the time… both a greeting and a goodbye… it is a signal, a statement, an awareness of peace… so vast, so rich, so huge…”

So necessary, too.


the intellectual lure

We want to know.

From the Undersheriff of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Kevin McMahill [note: emphasis mine]:

“To date, we have run down well more than a thousand leads in this investigation. While some of it has helped create a better profile into the madness of this suspect, we do not still have a clear motive or reason why

We all want answers. We have looked at everything — literally — to include the suspect’s personal life, any political affiliation, his social behaviors, economic situation…

We’re also aware, of course, that ISIS has repeatedly claimed responsibility, which today, I can tell you, that we have no known nexus to.

In the past, terror attacks or mass murder incidents, motive was made very clear — very clear in most of those cases by a note that was left, by a social media post, by a telephone call that was made, by investigators mining computer data. Today, in our investigation, we don’t have any of that uncovered. I wish we did. We will and are continuing to investigate with great tenacity, and hope to arrive at an answer.”

In other words, we don’t know. We don’t know why the suspect in last week’s shooting did what he did.

We don’t know motive. We don’t know the reason why.

And we aren’t very good at not knowing.

Isn’t that true?

Over the course of recent years, I have observed so many of us struggle with what we don’t know… when we don’t understand why someone would do something we wouldn’t do… when we don’t understand why someone would say something we wouldn’t say…

(Let’s go deeper…)

… when we don’t know why someone would vote for one for whom we wouldn’t vote… when we don’t know why someone would support a cause we wouldn’t support…

We struggle when we don’t know… when we don’t understand another. I think that struggle is very real.

Allow me to insert a parental metaphor here, especially being the parent of one son with special needs among my three. There are so many times as these boys have become men that I had zero clue why they did what they did or said what they said. I did not know.

But as a parent — admittedly making many missteps along the way — I soon learned that it was impossible to always know. It was impossible to always discern the clear motive or reason for their behavior. And after being hit over the head with a few hundred, seemingly divine two-by-fours, I surrendered the right to know. Funny, the more willing I was to surrender my need to know, the more I learned, the more I grew, and the more I was free to love and become a better parent.

The key is resisting the intellectual lure to assign motive in the absence of clarity. I deeply believe that intellect too often gets in the way; it is not (repeat, not) the equivalent of wisdom.

We crave knowing, and therefore, we assume we always can. So in the absence of clarity, we often assign motive or reason when someone does something we wouldn’t do, says something we wouldn’t say, votes how we wouldn’t vote, or supports what we wouldn’t support. In place of humble investigation, patience in the process, and/or prayerful revelation, we assign motive.

As we then fall into that troubling trap, believing we are omniscient enough to assign said motive or reason, we miss out on potential learning. Sometimes we even use the exercise to judge, unfriend, or to love another less.

I admit: not knowing is hard. And when that not knowing comes in conjunction, for example, with the manifestation of evil witnessed last week on the Las Vegas Strip, we search with increased tenacity to understand the why.

We search. We pray. Hopefully, we will one day know.

But sometimes we have to be ok with not.


one right angle

What’s the right angle?


What’s the right angle to take here? Is there only one?

As the shock-induced fog gives way to the reality that once again, we’re hit smack-dab in the face with the fact that evil exists on this planet, what are we to do? How are we to proceed? What’s the right angle?

Let me first be clear that I am not calling the Vegas shooter “evil.” We don’t know what was in his head or his heart or how mental illness may have played a role; we may never know. But what we do know is that innocent people were murdered. That qualifies as evil to me.

So where do we go with that?

I have quietly observed in recent years how people respond differently to different manifestations of evil — varied examples of when the innocent are killed…

… If it’s a terrorist situation, some immediately demand to call it what it is… “It’s radical Islamic terrorism! What are we going to do?! We need to stop this now!?”… Others say we need to be patient; we need to let the facts unfold. We don’t want to anger an entire people group.

… If it’s one man in his hotel room, shooting at concert goers, some immediately demand to call it what it is… “It’s a man who shouldn’t have a gun in his hands! What are we going to do?! We need to stop this now!”… Still others say we need to be patient; we need to let the facts unfold. We don’t know what laws would be effective in stopping this.

Friends, this is a tough blog. It’s tough because I am well aware that each of us have flirted with at least one of the above responses, and I never intend for any disrespect. I wrestle regularly, so many days, in regard to what is the wisest response.

The reality is we respond to evil differently. While the overwhelming majority of us abhor evil — and wish it didn’t exist on this planet — our individual responses as to how best to extinguish the evil is where the difference lies.

Therein begs the question: is there only one right angle? Is there only one right way to respond?

My sadness has extended beyond the news of Sunday as we see too many people declare only their way is wise. And then in what they most likely, sincerely believe is wisdom, they validate dismissing, mocking, and denigrating the approach of another; sometimes, they denigrate far more than the approach.

Remember the wisdom of Steven R. Covey, in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Habit #5 is this: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Noting that communication is arguably the most important skill in life, Covey states: “If you’re like most people, you probably seek first to be understood; you want to get your point across. And in doing so, you may ignore the other person completely… You filter everything you hear through your life experiences, your frame of reference.”

But other frames of reference exist. Other frames of reference are valid. When we ignore other people, we essentially are saying that only “my” frame of reference is valid. And when we ignore the validity of another’s frame of reference, rarely will that other person want to be and think more like us; we may be doing more harm than good.

The key then is to “use empathic listening to genuinely understand a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.”

Friends, I don’t believe it’s any secret with the conflict in this world today, that we need an atmosphere simply capable of positive problem solving. We need an atmosphere capable of addressing the evil that exists and capable of lessening the potential for any murder of the innocent. But as long as we demand that only one right angle exists, we pierce that atmosphere with nothing short of self-inflicting wounds.

I grieve for the families affected by what just happened in Vegas. As said Tuesday, I have trouble wrapping my heart and head around it.

I grieve, too, for how we disrespect each other so much thereafter. I can’t wrap my heart and head around that one either.

Grief is real. People respond differently. Lord help us in creating an atmosphere in which positive problem solving is simply capable.


what happened in vegas

How many must die before we finally get it?
How long before we realize our role in this toxic environment?
How many? How long?

It’s hard for me to wrap my brain and my heart around what just happened in Vegas. A man decides to take target practice on thousands of innocent targets. Those persons did nothing to him. But he was irrational — maybe “mad as hell” and “not going to take this anymore.” And so for whatever reason, he felt justified treating others in a heartless, horrific way. He justified treating others awfully.

It won’t be long before the calls for gun control and increased security measures fill up the airwaves. Sure, let’s have those conversations.

But let us not have them before we deal with the “how many” and “how long.” Let us not have any more proposals until we deal with a bigger bottom line. And, recognizing that what we’re about to wrestle with is both bold and uncomfortable, let us realize how we have contributed to this conflict. Let us recognize how we have contributed to treating others awfully.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize the deterioration of our public and personal rhetoric. We have justified calling others the worst. Allow me a mere few examples, heard in recent weeks (please excuse my vulgarity; these are direct quotes, with asterisks strategically positioned by the Intramuralist):

“Such an a**hole! … all thieves! … FU**TARD LIAR! … Racist pigs — each and every one of them! …”

Each of the above was said by a person considered to be a college-educated, pretty intelligent person. And yet, each justifies such callous derogation. And yet again, the insult list goes on.

Do we need more gun control? Maybe.

Do we need increased security measures? Maybe.

But more than any new practice or policy, we need the people of this country to quit believing they can scream insults at one another and believe nothing bad is going to happen — that no one will act irrationally and take it too far.

If we keep believing we can scream and shout and use such awful terms to describe our fellow men and women — who are created and loved by the great big God of the universe just like us — then we have had an active role in taking it too far. We have contributed to the toxic, non-God-honoring environment that too frequently exists. We have contributed to the deterioration of authentic community; we should be making it better — not worse. Let me be clear: only loving the likeminded, “like-looking” or “like-something” is making it worse.

In Vegas, current estimates are that at least 59 people died and 500+ more were injured. Details about the shooter and the crime scene are still forthcoming.

No doubt, because our horror is massive and our shock still reigns, many will call for an immediate solution so that we never feel such horror again — perhaps some new policy enactment. Still more will find whatever this shooter was associated with and declare that “those people” (whoever those people are) need to be eliminated.

The Intramuralist suggests we start with something a little more personal and uncomfortable. Let us be the change we want to see. Let us stop justifying the awful rhetoric. Let us stop screaming and unfriending and focusing on what we don’t have in common.

Yesterday, as I walked into the fitness room for my daily, morning routine, as usual, the cleaning crew also arrived bright and early. I motioned to the middle-aged man I see most Mondays. He is typically quiet and shy, never wanting to disturb me or interrupt my routine. 

I meekly asked, “Did you see the news this morning?”

The respectful gentleman, responded mostly in hand motions, acknowledging that his English fluency was minimal, but he had heard about the tragedy in Las Vegas. I then asked if he wanted to come watch the news with me in the workout room, inviting him in.

We turned on the news… and stood there… still… together. After a few minutes, he pointed to his forearm, showing me the goosebumps from his sadness and shock. I pointed to mine, too.

“Sad,” he said.

“Yes,” I agreed.

We looked at each other — and then hugged each other.

“What’s your name?” I then asked.

“Pablo,” he said.

“Nice to meet you, Pablo.”

America, we are one. Any immediate solution needs to deal with that bigger bottom line… meaning we realize more what we do have in common than what we don’t… and stop justifying treating any others awfully.

Respectfully… painfully, too…

you don’t know!

I’ve heard it a lot as of late…

“You don’t know what it’s like to be a black man…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be gay…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to grow up with only one parent…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be adopted…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be divorced…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to have a disability…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to lose a child…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be a woman…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to experience chronic pain…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to not be able to make ends meet…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to file for bankruptcy…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be bullied…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be fired…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to be in combat…”
“You don’t know what it’s like to watch your best friend die…”

You don’t know what it’s like.

Many have noted the division in this country — a division that seems to sprout in almost any societal subject, subjects that used to be solidly safe for finding conversation and common ground. While many have theories in regard to the reason, part of me wonders if the division is due to our continued proclamation that “you don’t know what it’s like.”

As long as we contend “you don’t know what it’s like,” we give ourselves full freedom to dismiss another’s perspective… in it’s entirety.

Let us acknowledge the wisdom of walking in a mile in another’s shoes. In reality, it’s true that we don’t know what all of the above is like. And so when we are willing to walk in the shoes of another, we see a different perspective… a different, valid perspective. When we are willing to see that —to put those other shoes on, so-to-speak — our potential for empathy increases exponentially.

My desire is that we see the “you don’t know what it’s like” not as a unending, wounding source of division, but rather, as an avenue for empathy.

Let’s get a little more personal… I am the parent of a son with Down syndrome. That means that he is at a significantly higher risk for hearing loss, sleep apnea, ear infections, eye disease, heart defects, intestinal blockage, hip dislocation, thyroid disease, anemia, iron deficiency, leukemia, blood disorders, Alzheimer’s, a lower life expectancy, and as most know, a significantly lower IQ. The list goes on.

In fact, as many are also aware, Joshua was born with a congenital heart defect; he was missing most of the wall in his heart where the two flaps come to meet. Prior to scheduled surgical repair, however, he came down with a serious respiratory virus which threatened his life. We spent most of March 2002 in the cardiac ICU wing, praying to God to heal our son, as we watched him lay fairly motionless, the respirator breathing for him. That was an incredibly challenging, painful time.

Now, since only 1 in every 700 babies is born with Down syndrome, that means 699 of you cannot relate to what we experienced. You don’t know what it’s like.

But if I choose to fiercely adhere to you not knowing, then I will miss other aspects that you have the potential to offer…


When Josh laid motionless in that hospital, I needed support, respect, and community. I needed the physical help, emotional encouragement, and spiritual support of the people around me. I needed the countless number of people who didn’t “know what it was like” but still chose to be present… who brought us meals, filled our thermos, cared for our other kids, gave us a break, cleaned our house, and offered fervent, selfless prayers on behalf. I needed those people… all “699” of them.

Rather than see our lack of knowing what it’s like as source of division, it seems so much wiser and beneficial to view such as an avenue for empathy — a way through which we can build authentic community. That is so much healthier than division.