the eradication of the middle

Two years ago, I did the unthinkable. As a currents events observer and an encourager of respectful dialogue, I typically tune into significant cultural events, including watching returns, for example, from even the most random elections.

But on Election Night 2016, I did the unthinkable. I never turned on the laptop nor TV; I turned off the lights, said my prayers, and went to bed exceptionally early. I did not watch a single return. While elections are important, my faith is not in an election nor in any of the elect. I thus slept very well that night.

I guess that’s it. I don’t see government as our moral authority. In fact, I don’t find it even capable of such; we are no one’s convictor of truth. In fact, when we started this blog 10 years ago (Happy Birthday, Intramuralist), our first post shared the top ten things learned from the election cycle. These included:

  • Jesus would not be a Democrat OR a Republican.
  • And most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.

10 years later, I would reiterate those same words.

We continue to find persons — in God’s name or in intentional omission of him — who attempt to morph government into the moral authority of the land… acting as if there’s only one right perspective… dismissing entire people groups… no longer seeing the wisdom in another point of view. Note these words from an editorial in Time Magazine last week:

“… We are in a political moment where we find ourselves on opposite sides of what feels like an unbreachable gulf. I find myself annoyed by the hand-wringing about how we need to find common ground. People ask how might we ‘meet in the middle,’ as though this represents a safe, neutral and civilized space. This American fetishization of the moral middle is a misguided and dangerous cultural impulse… What is halfway between moral and immoral?”

And just like that we’ve convinced ourselves that it’s ok — maybe even good — to wholly describe an entire other people group as immoral, elevating our perspective as the only moral approach. With all due respect, when we claim that our political position is the only moral perspective possible, we have usurped the role that only the divine is capable of assuming.

This is bothersome — and much of why my faith remains not in a person or party. There is a lack of integrity/morality/ethics hailing from both political parties… 

… like the conservative supporter who shamed one of my friends in the LGBTQ community last week… like the liberal protestor my friend watched mock the veteran… or like the Kavanaugh accuser who only now admits that she lied…

Friends, no party is completely moral.

Last week two highly respected friends of mine attended the same partisan function. Both are emotionally healthy, intelligent and sincere in their desire to live and love well. And yet, one walked away impressed — the other, disturbed. How is it possible that two wise people would walk away with polarized perspectives?

I wish there was an uncomplicated answer; it’d be easier. It’d be easier to label all of one party or one party’s leaders or loyalists as all bad, evil, immoral, etc. Then we’d never have to wrestle as to why a person thinks differently than “we.” But there is no easy answer; different perspectives exist from healthy, intelligent, compassionate people. So allow me to humbly offer what I believe to be true…

To conclude that the entire political perspective of the other party is immoral is a limited conclusion.

Friends, as an entire party, conservatives aren’t bigots; liberals aren’t liars. But when we take our individual experience and interactions —  with the bigots and liars in both parties — and project them onto all others as their character, we fall prey to limited, judgmental conclusions.

Rep. Ryan Costello, a Pennsylvania moderate, said it well recently:

“I think the far left and the far right look at people like me, and they say we’re the problem. And I actually think, No, we’re the answer. But what you hear and what you get is just ugliness toward you…

If you’re in the hot 10% on the left or the hot 10% on the right, you have a national audience. If you’re in the middle and can see both sides, you know what? You used to get called thoughtful — now you get called weak. And that’s messed up, man.” 

It’s messed up when we look down upon the different or attempt to eradicate the middle. It’s messed up when we thrust limited, judgmental conclusions upon entire parties or people groups. There truly are good people on all sides. Wisdom calls us to get to know them… interact with them… and be humble enough to listen as to why they think differently than “we.”

Respectfully…

AR

voting guide

In light of Tuesday’s coming election day, we thought it wise to offer a concise resource in regard to our decision-making for the day.

Oh. Wait. If by chance, you are expecting the Intramuralist to tell you how to vote this day, you may have been misdirected. We will willingly offer opinion, with a desire to entertain and encourage respectful dialogue. However, we will tell no one how they should vote; in fact, we believe no one is capable of such. Hence, instead…

“THE DO’S & DON’TS OF VOTING”

D&D #1

No one can nor should tell you how to vote. 

Contrary to unfortunately popular belief, there is not one right way to vote. We are each divinely wired and uniquely gifted, with varied experience and expertise. This results in varied passion and perspective. Let the variance refrain from fostering judgment.

D&D #2

Voting is your right.

Multiple constitutional amendments have established suffrage (specifically, the 12th, 15th, 17th, 19th, 24th, and 26th). We encourage you to take advantage of it.

D&D #3

Your vote matters.

How many times have we heard this defeated retort? Granted, there are many old wives’ tales that exist, seemingly to create a false sense of urgency (i.e. one vote bringing Texas into the Union, making English the official U.S. language, or giving Hitler control of Nazi Germany). There do exist times in which a single vote has been significant, but they are far less dramatic. The bottom line is that voting helps your voice be heard, and all voices are valuable even when not in the majority.

D&D #4

Consider voting for members of more than one party.

No party has cornered the market on integrity. In fact, perhaps one of the most disturbing trends is that partisan loyalists often overlook or minimize unscrupulous behavior in their own party, perceiving it as the necessary means to an end or the “lesser” of two evils. Last I looked, “evil” still meant “evil.” 

D&D #5 

Study the issues.

In addition to the people we elect, at the state level, there are actually 155 ballot measures that will be voted on in 37 states this Tuesday. For example, 7 measures in 5 states with wrestle with the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana. 8 measures in 6 states are considering some kind of limitation on taxes. Need more info? Go to www.ballotpedia.org. Find your state. Look up the issue. Look, too, at who supports, opposes, and is funding the initiative. As best as possible, attempt to discern what multiple motives may be in play.

D&D #6

Beware of bandwagons.

Let’s quote “Urban Dictionary.” The definition of a bandwagon: “when someone adopts a popular point of view for the primary purpose of recognition and/or acceptance by others.” Popularity has never been equated with wisdom. Beware of those attempting to rile you up, emotionally luring you into joining their “tribe,” not recognizing the sharpening available via varied perspective.

D&D #7

Know that voting is incapable of legislating morality.

If there was one “Do & Don’t” we continually find the masses falling prey to, it is perhaps this. Well-intentioned persons hailing from both the left and right seem to desire to dictate the behavior of another. Call me naïve, but whether we attempt to impose a moral authority upon another in the name of God or omitting his omniscient name, none of us are capable of being the convictor of truth in another.

D&D #8

Engage the different.

Want to learn? Want to grow? Want to learn to love your neighbor well and not just the tribal likeminded? Get to know them. Ask them how they think. Take the time to say, “You don’t have to share with me your vote, but it sounds like you and I don’t think always alike. Help me. Can you share why you feel that way?” Then listen more than speak. Always.

D&D #9

Respect the results.

Each election cycle this seems to get worse… “He’s not my _______.” Fill in the blank. The reality is that whether we voted for a person or not, if we live in his/her jurisdiction, that person represents us. Do they represent our individual beliefs well? Maybe not. But be active. Let your voice be reverently heard. And again, engage with the different. Respectfully.

D&D #10

Be prepared for the next election cycle.

The reality is on Wednesday, the day after, in our fast-paced society, the next election cycle will begin. Be ready for the immediate formation of exploratory committees. Be ready for partisan calls to obstruct, resist or blindly follow. Be ready. For years I’ve wished we all had a little more respect for who’s in office when they’re there.

As for me, I’ll, too, be ready… to observe… contemplate and converse … also off to buy some Advil.

Respectfully…

AR

incomprehensible

On Saturday morning, a man entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and shot and killed 11 innocent people. The single suspect reportedly targeted the victims solely because they were Jewish.

A former FBI agent who leads Pittsburgh’s department of public safety described the crime scene as “horrific.” Said Wendell Hissrich, “It’s one of the worst that I’ve seen, and I’ve been on some plane crashes. It’s — it’s very bad.”

The U.S. District Attorney involved has since stated that he is working toward soliciting approval to pursue the death penalty in this case.

(Deep breath…)

This is hard, friends… 

As is often the case, I find myself sitting with silence… shocked… with more questions than answers, and somehow, simultaneously, feeling both abhorred and appalled… 

How could someone do such a thing?

I ask more questions…

First, in regard to the victims’ families… so hard to grasp… I cannot imagine the gut-wrenching grief…

How will the families’ faith change in response?

Will it prompt them to rely on God even more?

How do you forgive for such a heinous act?

Is forgiveness healthy? 

What does it change within us?

Then, in regard to the shooter… what an awful thing to do…

What’s the appropriate consequence? 

Is the death penalty ever ok?

Is it ok to take a life because someone else took a life?

Does the horror of the crime scene matter?

Do we treat consequence differently because of the who’s involved and why they did it?

And lastly, questions perhaps to all of us, living amidst a society that struggles to love all people well…

Why do some hate the religious faithful?

Why do some hate others simply because they’re different?

How do we contribute to the hate?

Do we recognize when we fuel hatred?

And do we ever attempt to dress up our own anger, rage, or hatred as something more virtuous than it really is?

I wish this was an easy post today; it is not. I keep coming back to the historic psalmist who wrote “such knowledge is too wonderful for me” — with “wonderful” equating to “incomprehensible”… meaning simply unable to be understood.

Hate is incomprehensible; it’s awful. Sadly, there seem to exist pockets of hate all over the place. May it never be celebrated. May we never fuel it. May we each have more respect for what others believe.

Sadly this day…

AR

who are we making excuses for?

Years ago I used to coach select, adolescent/young teen baseball. I could no longer hit nor throw as far as those talented young men, but I know the game and know it well. Recent events have reminded me of a relevant incident — not my best moment — in which my boys were playing an accomplished rival, having multiple men on base, primed to score.

My strong, number five hitter was up to bat, and immediately, he smacked a hard line drive to right center. Coaching first and psyched to beat this particular team, I demonstrably signaled for my guy to head to second, attempting to stretch his single to a double.

Now as anyone who knows their baseball will share with you — including me — if you’re going to send a runner to second with the ball hit to right center, that ball better be way past the fielders and the runner exceptionally fast. Neither here was true. My guy was quickly called out, killing any rally.

My head coach wasn’t happy. The kid wasn’t happy. And the kid’s dad was worse, screaming at his son across the infield.

I had a choice: do I acknowledge my role in the tension?

Loud enough for all to hear — my team, their team, the forty-some fans in the stands and all passersby — I yelled, “It was my fault! I told him to go!”

It was my fault.

My words didn’t extinguish the frustration on the field nor all anger elsewhere. But when I took responsibility for that which I was responsible, the intensity of others’ reactions subdued.

It makes me often wonder if the hardest thing to do is to own that for which we are responsible. It is far easier to point fingers at another — focusing on what they are doing wrong — than acknowledging how we have contributed to the tension.

We often look at others’ behavior as awful… “Look at what they are doing!” Maybe we look at them as having started it first. But the reality is that many intelligent, even goodhearted people among us are more focused on someone else.

With this week’s reprehensible mail bomb activity, much of the country began talking about civility. As an advocate for respectful dialogue, solution, and loving all people well (as opposed to just those who agree with me), I’m thankful we have at least gotten the nation’s attention… for now. But will we make the most of the opportunity? Or will we continue to focus on someone else?

Friends, who will we make excuses for?

Will we make excuses for the mail bombs?

Will we make excuses for those who harass public officials when out to eat?

Will we make excuses for the incivility in many of Pres. Trump’s tweets?

Will we make excuses for the incivility encouraged by Hillary Clinton?

Will we make excuses for the Sen. Sanders supporter who shot at congressional Republicans playing softball?

Will we make excuses for Rep. Maxine Waters (and all others) who have called to disrupt others and tell them “they’re not welcome”?

Or… 

Will we make excuses for ourself? … responding with an angry insult, thinking lesser of, or an actual refusal to listen? … dismissing, denigrating, or simply waiting for solely them to come around?

My humble sense is that we spend so much time focusing on the misdeeds of others that we inadvertently excuse the imprudence and maliciousness in ourselves. In fact, we can be so deeply passionate — understandably — that we are blinded to our own misdeeds. Our passion, emotion, and intelligence too often pave the way for the excusal of awful behavior.

Friends, if we want America to be the opportune, sweet land of liberty, where all huddled masses are valued and respected from wherever they hail, however they hail, and whatever marks them as divinely created and uniquely, beautifully gifted — if we are going to be a united state of America — we must recognize that civility starts with us. It starts by individually examining how we are encouraging someone to not love and respect some other. 

Who are you looking down upon? Who are you considering less significant than yourself? Who are you marginalizing?

In other words, are we unknowingly excusing our own bad behavior, believing it is something more moral than it actually is?

Let us gently but mercifully acknowledge that this applies to each of us… left, right, black, white, male, female, you-name-it, you and me. I’d like to take back a few moments — moments in which I reacted instead of contemplated, preached instead of practiced, encouraged resistance instead of listening, and offered judgment instead of grace. I am very imperfect; we all are. Perhaps to keep us humble, God made each of us that way, prompting the pursuit of and a reliance upon a wisdom far superior than our own.

So what do we do, imperfect as we are, to capitalize on “the fierce urgency of Now”? Let me suggest we begin by stopping the excuses… for any disrespectful, damaging behavior.

Let us not begin with ensuring Trump stops tweeting. Let us not begin with making sure “we” win more elections first. Let us also not begin by tuning into only one biased, agenda-driven news source, thinking they are somehow helping. If leaders, loyalists, politicians, pundits, news anchors and activists refuse to be respectful, let us model the behavior which is wiser. Better. And good.

Let there be peace in our country.

And let it begin with “me.”

Respectfully…

AR

the current immigrant caravan

Sometimes, friends, I don’t know the right answer. Wait. Let me correct that. Many times I don’t know the right answer. Sure, we each have opinions, and those opinions are based on info, insight, experience, research and more. But that doesn’t make us right. I’m thinking we need to remember that a little more, as it might affect the way we interact with one another. (Maybe…)

As I wrestle with not knowing what’s right, no less, the Intramuralist, like many, is watching the immigrants move toward America. 

First, what we know…

Thousands of Central American immigrants are walking toward the southern U.S. border. We cannot tell who exactly makes up the crowd. Were they organized by someone intentionally? … three weeks before the election? Are there criminals in the crowd? None of this we know with certainty, although pundits and media seem to suggest an “all or nothing” approach, pending partisan leaning.

The group originated in Honduras and is now growing in Mexico. According to Time Magazine, the immigrants said they “gave up trying to enter Mexico legally because the asylum application process was too slow.” So they entered illegally.

Pres. Trump is tweeting about the situation (shocking).

According to State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert, “The Mexican Government is fully engaged in finding a solution that encourages safe, secure, and orderly migration, and both the United States and Mexico continue to work with Central American governments to address the economic, security, and governance drivers of illegal immigration.”

Assuming, therefore, that the immigrants’ intent is to flood the border with masses — gaining access to the United States and making it more difficult to send back to their home country —  this immigration approach is illegal.

So what’s the right thing to do?

Friends, I wish I could hide behind some easy answer, but frankly, I find the political talking points too extreme, interfering, and too intentionally crafted in order to divide us more. Too many are utilize ways and words with the upcoming election in mind, and too many of us adopt those divisive answers. Let’s get rid of those. Instead, let’s ask…

What’s the right thing to do?

Where do compassion and illegality meet?

Open borders doesn’t seem the answer, as that ignores the very real threat of terrorists and drug cartels.

Abolishing ICE doesn’t seem the answer, as dismantling the border enforcement agency also ignores those with the intent to destroy us.

Rejecting all immigrants seems not the answer either, as such is inconsistent with our admired, historical acceptance of the tired and poor, yearning to be free.

And so we ask…

How can we craft an approach that is efficient, compassionate, and wise? 

I wonder…

Do we need to first note the difference between migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers? Are they the same? And truly, who are those in the current crowd?

While the words are often used interchangeably in regard to the current crisis, the three terms have distinct meanings, albeit with some overlap  — overlap that may influence both our compassion and approach.

A “migrant” is simply one who moves from one place to another in order to live in another country for more than a year. Often termed an “economic migrant,” this is typically one who seeks work or a “better life,” but this could also be an international student. It could be a mixture of many factors.

A “refugee” is one who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster, and is considered in need of international protection because circumstances in their home country are considered too dangerous to return at this time.

An “asylum seeker” is one who crosses into another country due to fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, social group, or political opinion, hoping to be granted refugee status.

So who are those that are currently caravanning north? Is it a mixed group? Are they fearing for their lives? Those answers matter.

As I said at the onset of this post, the Intramuralist does not know the exact right thing to do. But it would seem both logical and compassionate — and let’s be clear — compassion means to consider both those who wish to enter and those who already live here — to incorporate the following:

Recognize the reality of terrorists and drug cartels and thus the dangers of a porous border.

Evaluate the economic affects and who can and should pay for what — corporately and individually. What is appropriate and possible? Both questions are priority.

Discern the difference between a migrant, refugee, and asylum seeker, and thus how compassion is made manifest with each.

And to the media, pundits, politicians, any current caravan organizers, and political side pickers, know that each life matters — immigrants and American citizens. Hence, let’s not use any life as an election tool, but instead respectfully work to solve both the short term problem and long term issue.

Respectfully…

AR

the post about nothing

There is no subject the Intramuralist feels a need to steer clear of. I believe that any issue, hard as it is, can be discussed well (meaning solution kept in mind) as long as we are always respectful of those who disagree with our assessment or approach. We need to listen. We need to consider and sincerely weigh what another is saying — as opposed to merely utilizing the time in which another is speaking to think of what we will say next.

Truth is, no less, there are times when such is still exhausting. There’s too much pouncing on opinion. And one person’s commitment to respectful dialogue may not be matched by another. Also unfortunately, social media has only magnified the disrespect. In a forum that otherwise looks like opportunity for a respectful give-and-take, sometimes the respect is severely lacking.

There’s too much “I’m-mad-as-hell-and-not-going-to-take-it-any-more” combined with “so-if-you-are-really-my-friend-you-can-handle-it”… combine that with the “don’t-wait—you’ll-soon-realize-I’m-the-right-one”… and then we begin questioning who our friends actually are. It’s a sad reality some days. Too many days.

So yes, while I am a full, firm believer in respectful dialogue, sometimes it’s challenging when witnessing all the disrespectful communication otherwise intelligent people justify.

Sometimes, some things are more fun to discuss… like “Seinfeld,” for example. Loyal viewers will never forget “The Pitch” episode, which first aired in September of 1992, delivering an infamous exchange between comedian Jerry Seinfeld and the slow-witted, often neurotic George Costanza. Pitching a sit-com to NBC, part of the exchange went as follows:

Jerry: “You want to go with me to NBC?”

George: “Yeah. I think we really go something here.”

Jerry: “What do we got?”

George: “An idea.”

Jerry: “What idea?”

George: “An idea for the show.”

Jerry: “I still don’t know what the idea is.”

George: “It’s about nothing.”

Jerry: “Right.”

George: “Everybody’s doing something; we’ll do nothing.”

Jerry: “So, we go into NBC, we tell them we’ve got an idea for a show about nothing.”

George: “Exactly.”

Jerry: “They say, ‘What’s your show about?’ I say, ‘Nothing.’ “

George: “There you go.”

Hence, with all the infighting, arrogance, and social media disgraces — sometimes actually talking about so-called “nothing” prompts a grin previously absent from my day.

Respectfully… with still a little tongue in that cheek…
AR

tough but true

I’m really unsure of how the following is relevant. Maybe it’s not. Please know it is not meant to be disrespectful of anyone  — nor is my experience meant to equate to anyone else’s truth. We have that problem these days… equating individual experience with everyone else’s truth.

Nonetheless, I’ve remembered this often. It is true…

As longtime readers of the Intramuralist will attest, throughout my life I’ve been a pretty good athlete. My knees are a little slower now… perhaps also my eye in striking the ball as forcefully… but as close friends will acknowledge, one may still have met their match in me on the Top Golf, Wii bowling, or backyard-any-sport circuit. Thank God for the smaller backyard-any-sport circuit. Those competitive juices remain.

In college, arguably, I hit my prime. In fact, as inspired the mantra for this blog, you’ll note I used to enter pretty much each and every intramural competition. And I’d do great! … that is, until I met the one who had played that particular sport their entire (doggone it) life…

Weightlifting, racquetball, tennis…

Ping pong or a semi-friendly game of H-O-R-S-E…

And badminton. Yes, badminton.

I was an excellent badminton player.

I know, I know… some still think it’s the backyard game of birdies, barbecue, and those tiny little shuttlecocks. But to me it was so much more. I kid you not…

In my distinguished D1 school, I took one P.E. class each semester; it was a physical outlet — my relief — often in the midst of a demanding academic course load. One semester I took badminton. Friends, I was really, really good.

One of my dear friends at the time was a young man who grew up in Southeast Asia. The son of a prominent politician, Erwin was afforded multiple, far-reaching opportunities. One of those was growing up playing the equivalent of AAU (the Amateur Athletic Union) on the select, badminton, Asia-Pacific circuit. Erwin was excellent at what he did.

Thus, as close and competitive as we were, in between classes and conversations and doing life together, he mandated I meet him on the badminton court.

Timelessly, he would say, “Ann, hit it here!” … and we would not leave the court until twenty times in a row, I could hit that frickin’, feeble little shuttlecock into a 0.76m x 0.46m space in the midst of a competitive match. Twenty times in a row.

Erwin drove me crazy.

He also made me good.

During our actual class, the course cumulated in an end-of-semester tournament. It was a co-ed, single elimination, best of 3 games tournament. Per the official rules, “Each game is played to 21 points, with players scoring a point whenever they win a rally regardless of whether they served. A match is the best of three games.” The tournament was a series of those three games.

I sailed through my side of the bracket. On the other side, there was a young man named “Brent,” who equally sailed through his. Brent was on scholarship; he played on our university tennis team — playing men’s singles #1 or #2. So the showdown was set… the finals… Brent vs. me.

Oh, my… what a wonderful match that it was… back and forth… back and forth. The more we played, the more the crowd paid attention. It was a fierce, well-played, competitive match. I was giving everything I had. So was he!

I won game 1. He won game 2. I won…

Well, therein lies the problem… well, sort of a problem.

This badminton match was one of the best sporting events I have ever been involved in — certainly the best individually. I played great. He played great. It was back-and-forth and totally competitive… 

For years I have sincerely shared this story, telling of one of my most awesome wins.

But here’s the God-honest truth…

I actually can’t remember if I won or not. I know I played great. I know he played great. I remember the looks on the faces of those around us, astonished by what transpired… here this scholarshipped tennis player… and me, this seemingly athletic nobody.

I can’t actually recount this story and scenario in all accuracy. I can only, authentically share how I felt. I remember how I felt. 

For me, it was awesome.  

This was 30 years ago. It was a wonderful, incredible day. My point is that sometimes feelings are more prominent than details. Tough story. I get it. But true.

Respectfully…

AR

think different?

In 1997, what was then known as Apple Computer, Inc., — a company that was reportedly “hemorrhaging” at the time, according to co-founder Steve Jobs — rolled out a new advertising slogan.

The legendary campaign featured a rainbow-colored Apple insignia on a black background, with the simple white text below it, encouraging viewers to: “Think different.” The contrasting logo, background, and text, as discussed by Rob Siltanen, who was the creative director for the marketing firm making the pitch, “seemed to make the ‘Think Different’ statement all the more bold.

Something within that slogan resonates loudly within me… the boldness… the encouragement… and the freedom… the freedom that acknowledges, “No, we don’t all have to think the same way.” In fact, it doesn’t make sense to me that we all must think the same way; it doesn’t even seem wise. Repeatedly, we have witnessed how we are strengthened and sharpened by the different.

But that message seems increasingly counter-cultural, as in recent weeks, many have asserted that all “identities” must think alike… all of one gender to one ethnicity, all of one religion to one political party, even from all celebrities to all assault victims…

… that for some reason, we must think exactly alike, sharing the same perspective.

And if we don’t, unfortunately, two conclusions seem to be made, perpetuated by these so-called, humanly crafted tribes:

One, you are wrong.

And two, you are not really one of us. 

You do not — cannot — belong to my “tribe.”

Just like that we judge another, dismiss perspective, and kill the bold encouragement to “think different.”

Last week I walked with a trusted friend. We do so weekly and always look forward to the next week; this was no different. Strolling around the neighborhood, we shared and discussed our perspectives on recent current events. As we walked, we uncovered a significant area where our reactions were strikingly different; we did not agree. But instead of either of us walking away or refusing to listen or even concluding that we were totally in the right and the other was totally in the wrong, we walked longer, talked longer, asked more questions, and listened more intently. I don’t know that in the end either of us significantly altered our perspective, but I can say that there was no conclusion that one of us was totally right, the other was totally wrong, and that we are no longer similar to the other… that we are no longer capable of being trusted friends. There was instead a keen awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement of the bold freedom — and inherent wisdom — to “think different.”

Note that for Apple, the “Think different” campaign was considered wildly successful. In addition to receiving numerous advertising accolades and awards, the campaign was said to have transformed the company and “marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as a marketing powerhouse.”

Said, too, by Siltanen, “It was the exact kind of attention-getting and thought-provoking advertising Apple desperately needed.”

Think different.

Attention-getting…

Thought-provoking…

Desperately needed.

Maybe that’s what the rest of us need, too… an awareness, acceptance, and acknowledgement of the bold freedom — and inherent wisdom — to actually “think different.”

Respectfully…

AR

bad things happen… to each of us

Seventeen years ago, my life changed. Not only did it change, but everything in me was convinced it was changing for the worse.

Let’s be clear; it wasn’t just me who believed that; there was a reason our friends and family cried. Add the doctor on top of that, arriving in the room no less than an hour after our youngest son’s birth, whose first words to us were, “This must be the saddest day of your whole life.”

Let that sink in for a minute… “the saddest day of your whole life.”

In addition to the no doubt unintended, perceived gut punch, the doctor left us with a thick packet of info, brochures, statistics, etc., which included a multi-page list of approximately 300+ things that our son was now more likely to have wrong with him.

Wrong. 

Bad.

That’s how we perceived it.

Before we get to the main point of today’s post, let’s acknowledge October as Down syndrome Awareness Month — a totally awesome month — and offer a brief, supportive shout out to the friends and families that have such a special someone as a member of their family! No doubt many of those in this community are some of the finest people we have ever met. Truly. But I’d like to go a little deeper this day… in a way that affects us all.

What happens when something bad happens to you? Something you truly perceive as bad? 

Does it define you?

Does it destroy you?

Does anything good ever come out of it?

Let’s first address the increasingly pervasive “one-size-fits-all” rationale. Sorry, but that doesn’t make much sense to me… that because you and I have both experienced “the same kind of thing,” we should react the same way or share the same perspective. I don’t buy it. We are each uniquely and wonderfully made; we are wired differently. Therefore, it makes total sense to me that men, women, adults, children, persons of varied ethnicity and demographic would and could respond in totally different ways. I’d like to see us each give others a little more grace in this area, recognizing that “one-size-fits-all” is more suited for a retail clothing promotion. 

We react differently. That’s ok. Not even the mature nor intelligent respond the same. That is equally ok.

For me, having a child with a cognitive disability — and knowing that I was going to have to change my expectations immediately — was incredibly hard. Harder still was wrestling with the perception that not only the world — but also me, at the time — thought this was bad.

When I pivoted, however, from seeing my challenging circumstance as any doubt regarding who God is and how much he loves me to instead an opportunity to get to know and rely on him more, something changed. I began to see something the world did not — and perhaps cannot — always see.

I began to see something other than that perceived as bad. I began to see this also uniquely and wonderfully made child… who would teach me and grow me and stretch me… who would challenge some of my cultural norms… who would say things and react in ways I did not… who helped me learn and quit judging the different… who knew no fear… who loved faster… who was full of hope… and who taught me the striking difference between intelligence and wisdom. I began to draw nearer to the great big God of the universe — and then find a strength I otherwise would not have known. What I once saw as bad did not define nor destroy me; it instead, actually strengthened me.

Allow me to never suggest that the bad things are easy. No way. Allow me to also never suggest any of us need to just “get over it.” But let me suggest that the bad things in our life do not need to be lingering sources of anger directed at either self, the world, or those who think differently. Challenging as they are, they can be an opportunity to grow… if we let them.

Yesterday, as my son and I stood at the bus stop for none other than his 17th birthday, he again requested a long time favorite song. And so at 6:30 in the morning, in a public place, on a semi-busy street, we stood outside, belted it, and danced… “When I see your face, there’s not a thing that I would change, ‘cause you’re amazing, just the way you are…”

I see that now… amazing…

What an incredible opportunity to grow.

Respectfully…

AR

no reasonable person could ever… right?

“I don’t know how anyone could ever ___________!”

Fill in the blank with whatever you wish, friends.

In the last week, I’ve heard everything put in that blank from believing her, believing him, being ok with dirty politics, to being an Ohio State football fan.

My fear is we’re collectively making a most grievous, blinding error.

Note the subject of that first sentence: I… me… my… myself…

Because I don’t know” — because I don’t think that way I project my perspective onto all others as the only wise perspective they could or should possess.

I assume I am right and that no reasonable person — certainly not an intelligent nor mature one — could come to any different conclusion.

So allow me to humbly ask… since when did it become wise to believe that there is only one right perspective?

Since when did it become wise to believe that there is only one right way to proceed? 

And since when did it become wise to project our own experience and our learnings from that experience onto everyone else?

It’s ok to see things different ways.

Really.

A year ago, we published a post entitled “Death to Our Relationships.” Substantive to the primary point were the words written by Washington Post columnist Christine Emba, discussing the deteriorating communication in our country. Said Emba, “Both right and left have engaged in the breakdown-inducing behaviors that have put our democracy on the edge of divorce.”

Is that not the truth? 

Said Senators Collins and Murkowski respectively on Friday… 

“We live in a time of such great disunity, as the bitter fight over this nomination both in the Senate and among the public clearly demonstrates. It is not merely a case of different groups having different opinions. It is a case of people bearing extreme ill will toward those who disagree with them…”

“I’m worried. I am really worried that this becomes the new normal, where we find new and even more creative ways to tear one another down.”

Let’s examine the bigger picture. Intelligent people are warring against one another; they are assuming another to actually be lesser because of their intense disagreement. Allow me to then also suggest that such intensity combined with intelligence is impairing not only our individual perspectives — but also how we treat all of mankind.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of attending a Special Olympics bowling competition for high schoolers in our county. It was a humbling, amazing event, seeing 5-6 Olympians fill well over 50 lanes. And then it dawned on me… did anyone notice the shirt that many of the very special athletes wore?

Read from the back of my son’s shirt:

“Play unified. Live unified.”

Live unified. 

I couldn’t help but think that here in an arena not necessarily known for its intelligence or cognitive astuteness, there is so much the rest of us could learn.

Respectfully…

AR