Roll With It

roll with

Photo by Alexandru Tudorache

This post is another of my essays available on The Mindsoak Project.

No pain, no gain.  We have heard this tired, old cliché a million times.

The thing is it’s true.  There is no renewal without some degree of pain.  This is true for each of us as individuals, for communities, and even for whole nations.

I recently injured my shoulder.  It happened when I was failing to act my age.  I wasn’t purposely trying to act younger or be younger.  It was more of a subconscious event.  I’m fully aware I am not young anymore, but it still takes some moments of pain to realize this time of renewal is upon me.  This episode just happened to be a bit more intensely painful than usual.

Many of us view growing older as an ominous event.  Our bodies give out, our relationships change, and our memories fade at varying speeds.  Yet, aging is actually a time of renewal.  With each passing phase, new doors open in our lives.  Opportunities not available to our younger selves suddenly appear.  Relationships deepen to new levels previously unknown to us.

As one chapter ends, another begins, and with this transition comes pain.  We hurt for the past and we feel the acute discomfort of the future.  This is renewal.  It is a rebirth and a rebranding of ourselves.  You can try to ignore the pain or fight against it, but reality will prove the only way to end it is to roll with it.

Rather than impossibly struggling to reshape the past, embrace the change and form the future.

Community Renewal

Communities experience the same growing pains.  My community of Dubuque, Iowa is going through a renewal.  We have changed over the years.  Most noticeably, our collective skin has become darker.  When I was growing up here in the 80s and 90s, we were whiter than white.  Most of us were of Irish or German descent and most of us were Catholic.

Since that time, racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity has found its way to our small Midwestern city.  The city government and civic leaders, to their credit, have rolled with this change.  They have started initiatives and fostered community conversation meant to help new and life-long citizens embrace the renewal.

 Photo by Jakob Owens.

As you would expect based on our experiences in the U.S., this change has come with pain.  Not everyone enjoys renewal like this.  As humans, we like to surround ourselves with others like us.  It’s simply who we are.

It is our humanness, though, that gives us the capacity to accept and embrace renewal.  We have the ability to gain new knowledge, and experience diversity and change in new ways.  Though it takes years of pain, communities can and do grow.  My community is trying to roll with the change.  We are working to shape our future to embrace a new identity.

Renewal of the whole

Community change is one thing, but the changing face of a country is exponentially bigger and more complex.  What we are experiencing now in the United States is renewal on a massive scale.  We are changing in color, in faith, in language, and in many other facets of culture.

It is uncomfortable.  It’s scary.  In the end, it is simply change.  We can roll with the wave and ride it into the future, or we can swim against the current until we sink to the bottom.

We can embrace renewal or agonize over what was.

When it comes to renewal, the only true way forward is to accept the pain for what it is.  It is the end of one era and the beginning of another.  The sooner we roll with this truth, the sooner we can get to shaping our future.

Loving Country

Photo by Aaron Burden

The following is my latest essay for the Mindsoak Project.  

In this month of Valentine’s Day, love takes center stage. We turn to those we love and remind them of that love with cards, chocolate, and dinners in crowded restaurants packed with other lovers.

This month normally finds us contemplating our love for those right next to us—those we love every other day of the year.  This year, though, another kind of love has been on my mind.

I’ve read a lot of Bible verses in my day, but my favorite has always been the most cliché.  It’s that quintessential wedding verse, 1 Corinthians 13.  It’s one of those verses that easily transcends Christianity and applies to all of us.  I’m sure many of you have heard it.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In my experience, we tend to read this verse with ourselves in mind.  We think of spouses, children, family and friends.  So where does our love of country fit in?  When I say love of country, I don’t mean of the flag or the land on which we live.  I mean the love of each other, the people with whom we share a communal identity.

Are we being patient?  Are we being kind?  Do we suffer from envy and pride?  Can we truly say we are not self-seeking?  It’s obvious we are easily angered.  The yelling we see every day is plenty of evidence of that.  Do we rejoice in the truth?  Are we hopeful?

We are struggling to love each other right now, and I mean really struggling.  According to the Pew Research Center, on the Republican side of the political spectrum, 49% say the Democratic Party makes them feel afraid, 46% say it makes them feel angry, and 57% say it makes them feel frustrated.  Those numbers on the Democratic side are 55%, 47%, and 58% respectively.

Fear, anger, and frustration are true enemies of love, but they are winning the day.

You have to wonder how our situation might change if we all tried love instead of these other damaging emotions.

The funny thing is love isn’t actually that hard.  All it takes is common ground.  We all have that with one another.  We have music, movies, viral videos, books, and our love of family, friends, and spouses.  We desire safety, security, and companionship.  We all have dreams for our future.

We also have hope.

Hope is one of those traits that makes us fundamentally human.  Even in the darkest of times, we can imagine a brighter future.  One poll at the beginning of this year from the Associated Press found that over half of us are hopeful for a better year, despite our fear, anger, and frustration.

We know how love is supposed to look.  We strive for it in our personal lives every day.  Maybe we can all try applying the same rules of love we use in our personal lives to our love of country.

Be patient with one another, and be kind.  Replace envy with understanding, and pride with empathy.  Help everyone maintain dignity and honor.  Along with seeking for ourselves, seek for all.  Guard against anger and look for the personal strengths in others.  Seek truth in its purest form.  Protect each other.  Trust each other.

Never lose hope.

Always persevere.