For the first time since I started this blog nine years ago, I’ve been blocked.
I’ve wanted to show you the beauty of Arles, the season’s first snow, and the photos I shot last month in Florida. But it all seems so trivial compared to the political changes that are unfolding around the world. Deep chasms are fracturing nations, and a terrible darkness is spilling out of their depths.
The 2016 presidential campaign in the U.S. was especially messy and troubling. Both major parties used dirty tricks and slung vitriol — and ultimately my country elected a man who has deliberately pitted Americans against each other and lauded violence.
You people were vicious, violent, screaming, ‘Where’s the wall? We want the wall!’ I mean you were nasty and mean and vicious and you wanted to win, right?
As a pacifist — and as someone who deeply loves her country and its ideals of democracy, liberty, and opportunity — I’ve been disheartened by the divisiveness and hatred. Worse yet, I’ve felt powerless against it.
Last week I was discussing this with my wise friend Tom. “What can one person do?” I asked him. “How can one individual possibly make a positive difference?”
“Do what you can,” he responded.
Those words resonated again last night when I came across this photo.
And then I found Justin Normand’s words.
I’M THE TEXAN WHO HELD THE “YOU BELONG” SIGN IN FRONT OF THE MOSQUE IN IRVING.
I have had the most extraordinary weekend.
Like most everyone I know, I have been in a malaise and at a loss since Election Day. What to do? With myself? With my time? To make things better, or even just to slog through?
I manage a sign shop, and so I’d had the urge for a week or so to do this. Friday, I had a couple of spare hours in the afternoon, so I did.
I made a sign, and I drove to the nearest mosque and stood out on the public sidewalk to share the peace with my neighbors. My marginalized, fearful, decent, targeted, Muslim neighbors.
Someone took a picture and posted it, and as of today it’s been viewed millions of times, and shared across various platforms many hundreds of thousands of times. This is extraordinary and humbling; mainly because what I did isn’t (or shouldn’t be) all that extraordinary.
For me, this wasn’t about expressing agreement; I remain Presbyterian, not Muslim. It wasn’t about demonstrating my outrage to right-wing drivers driving down Esters Road in front of the mosque. I can never, and will never, change any of the haters. It’s not about them. Not this time, and not here.
This was about binding up the wounded. About showing compassion and empathy for the hurting and fearful among us. Or, in some Christian traditions, this was about washing my brother’s feet. This was about my religion, not theirs.
And, it was about what I think I must do as an American when our way of life is threatened. Targeting people for their religion not only threatens our way of life, it is the polar opposite of our way of life.
Find a group marginalized by the haters in this current era we find ourselves in. Then, find a way to express your acceptance to that group in a physically present way, as opposed to a digital one.
I can assure you, from their outpouring of smiles, hugs, tears, hospitality, messages extending God’s love, and a bouquet of flowers, it will mean a lot.
My own religious tradition ascribes these words to my deity:
I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.
It is also in this vein that the words on the Statue of Liberty embrace, with eagerness and mercy, all who come to join us:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
These words bespeak the America we all remember, know, love, and are still called upon to be. Especially now.
Lastly, it worked. I felt better for the impact it had on my neighbors. They genuinely needed this encouragement. They need us.
They need all of us. They need you.
We ARE one America.
This isn’t about partisanship. It isn’t about who won the election. It isn’t even about religion. It’s about who we choose to be, collectively, as a nation.
So on this Christmas Eve, when millions of Christians around the world gather to celebrate Jesus’ birth, may we each remember His teachings of brotherhood, love, and compassion … and may we each do what we can.
Great, thoughtful post!
Thank you for taking the time to read it. Happy new year to you and yours!
You are welcome! You, too!
Thanks for the lovely message from both you and Justin Normand! The Palestinian students I host, both Muslim and Christian, are always welcome at my house! Holiday Blessings!
Young people represent our greatest hope for a better future … so THANK YOU for hosting exchange students, Virginia! My warmest holiday wishes to you and your family too.
This is a good piece, i ought to enjoy my xmas and enter new year well
Hope you DO enjoy your holidays, and my best for a good year ahead.
An inspiring message. Happy holidays to you and yours, H.
Thank you so much for stopping by, Andy. My best to you and yours for a healthy, happy 2017!
I hope it inspires positive actions as well. Thank you!
Nice Post. Thank You.
Thanks for the wonderful post. Lately I’ve been wondering how I can live in this country anymore, but your post, and Justin in Texas, do give me some hope. Have a blessed Christmas!
At times I’ve felt like a stranger in my own country too, Joe — and in this unfamiliar landscape it’s difficult not to despair sometimes. But please don’t give up! There are no more haters out there today than there were a month or a year ago; they’ve simply become more vocal. So let’s become more vocal too — through kind actions like Justin’s, or by making gorgeous images of this beautiful country we’re lucky to call home. And small action by small action we’ll keep moving forward toward a nation that truly does offer liberty and justice for all. A blessed Christmas to you and yours, Joe, and my most heartfelt wishes for peace.
Happy holidays – and I think there are a lot of us hoping for a better 2017. Have a restful break.
As long as we can hope for a better 2017, there is still hope. 🙂 My warmest holiday wishes to you too, Fiona!
Onya mate. (good on ya/you… Oz’e slang for ‘Good on you.’) Well said, well done…So easy to do nothing.
It’s Christmas day down-under and the best present of all; it’s raining and the empty tanks are filling… Happy New Year
Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind words, and for the Oz’e slang lesson! And a very merry Christmas to you and yours. May the tanks stay full well into the year ahead. Cheers, mate!
Merry Christmas! Well said. Peace on Earth good will towards all peoples!
Amen, Timothy! Merry Christmas to you and yours.
Awesome. Hats off to you and continue spreading smiles and happiness. It takes ppl like you to actually make this world a better place. Cheers!
What a kind message. Thank you! And cheers to you for also spreading happiness and positivity in your corner of the world.
Reblogged this on purelycrystals.
This is such a wonderful post.
Thank you so much, Bethany. I’m honored it spoke to you.
So much thanks and gratitude. What a beautiful post. Tears did well-up and am happy to feel them. They’re good ones; they’re hopeful. Here’s to continuing the growth and practice of humanitarian principles, forever and ongoing.
Your kind and thoughtful comments always make my day, Lara. Thank you so much for stopping by — and for reminding me once again that there are *a lot* of good people out there. Happy holidays to you, and may 2017 bring peace. xo
All that same back to you, H. Grateful, very.
Thank you for this beautifully written and thoughtful post. Peace and love to you this holiday 💜
Peace and love to you too, Tasha — and may goodness and light prevail in the year ahead. xo
Hi, I followed you here from Gardening Nirvana. I enjoyed this post a lot. Isn’t it wonderful how easy it is to extend a warm heart to the marginalized and persecuted? I applaud him for doing so and thanks for sharing it.
It is indeed easy to extend a warm heart or a kind word — and Justin is living proof of just how meaningful a small gesture can be. I’m so glad you found his story inspiring; thank you for stopping by!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year xxx
Thank you, Rachel! My best wishes to you and yours as well! xo
This made my eyes prick. God bless Justin Normand for having the courage to live by his creed of love and compassion; and God bless you too. x
God bless us — every one — DB. xo
How beautifully written!!
I live miles and miles away from you, but this message of peace resonates with me, here in so troubled Greece!! Thank you!!
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your lovely comment. I’m truly moved that the words of this kind and wise man are resonating around the world. My warmest wishes to you — and to your beautiful country — for a good year ahead.
nıce post .thank you
This has just popped up on WP NOW….. I feel like ‘swearing’ at the screen for messing up again – but then I read your post and now I’m glad I did.
KUDOS to that brave man who did what he had to do, kudos to every single human being who is – at this difficult time – doing their little bit to give back some hope and belief in the good of fellow people. Kudos to you to post this post and the sincere wish and ardent desire to all of you, us, everywhere that we will see better times again….
I’m very curious about this, Kiki … can you perhaps help me solve a mystery by telling me how these popped up? (Did they show up in your WordPress reader, or did they come to you via email?) I don’t think it’s your screen’s fault, because I *was* updating some settings on my blog, but it’s interesting if this got flagged as “new” for you because it’s actually an older post. Thank you for help! 🙂
They only showed up when I clicked on the ‘bell’ on the right top column (All, unread, comments, follows, likes)…. No mails. Don’t mind because it was about Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Adoption, three themes linked anyway. Thought it interesting but have no way to ^search^ this strange appearance. Let’s say: It had to be 🙂
Thank you SO MUCH for the extra info, Kiki! I was wondering why you were the only person who had seen them … but it makes perfect sense now that only the extra-attentive are being “rewarded” as I update some of my old posts. You can expect a few more of these in the weeks ahead …. think of it as our own private little blog. 🙂 Thank you as always for stopping by!