Posted on November 18, 2016
On the edge of the holiday season, I sit in a hotel in downtown Cleveland, considering the new normal. Over the last week and a half, I have had so many interactions with people I care deeply about who are hurting and afraid. They are afraid for themselves, their friends, and their clients.
Many of my friends are dreading the Thanksgiving table conversations with people with different political views. I feel for my friends, but they are the lucky ones. Other families will gather and wonder what this new reality will mean for their ability to access lifesaving health care, their ability to keep their family together without being deported, and whether it is safe to express their religious identity without threats or actual violence.
My heart has broken a thousand times over the last week and a half, and the news is bringing little comfort that the new normal will be anything different from what was promised during the election. I struggle to find appropriate language to express myself, much less comfort others. When we can’t find the right words, our emotions too often turn to anger and frustration.
I am fortunate to wake up every morning and think about a better future. This week, I got to talk to some amazing folks working with kids experiencing homelessness in the Cleveland schools. While the political reality is impacting most everyone, we still have kids who sleep in cars and go to bed hungry. We also have heroes that have dedicated their lives to ensuring that these kids are loved, and are working towards a future where this unnecessary and tragic reality does not face any child or adult.
None of us enter this new normal alone and, thanks to all of you, neither do our clients. The kids in Cleveland have Life Skills Coaches who love them, those living with HIV in rural Iowa have a case manager who won’t give up on them, families in Pasadena have a medical clinic that serves as a sanctuary from pain and hurt of their life, a transgender youth in San Francisco finds an outreach worker who values her for who she is on the inside and out. Every day around this country, someone lost finds hope, someone in isolation finds love and acceptance.
In the next week, we will feed millions who would otherwise go hungry. In the next week, we will shelter tens of thousands who would have otherwise frozen to death. In the next week, we will be the one small light of hope that convinces someone not to give up on life and find hope in the darkness.
…and we’ll do it the week after that
….and the week after that
….and the week after that
And that, my friends, is why I’m thankful. I am lucky to call you friend and partner in this journey.
Thank you, Matt! I’m bypassing the whole family Thanksgiving thing this year. Instead my sons and I will celebrate together and be thankful for each other – and that my youngest son is finally employed again!
For all of us who care about others, this is an incredibly difficult time, but you’re right, we continue to reach out and help as we can. I may not be able to fix the national scene but I can help a family get food, shelter, clothing, and schooling. I learned, back in my idealistic youth, that I cannot change the world, but I can change my little corner of it.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Matt!
Hang in there my friend. The ripples of change you make in your corner impact us all in positives ways.
Matt – as always your wisdom and perspective is deeply appreciated. Like most, I have deep feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and disappointment but I also find myself confronted with the reality that I’ve subtly become complacent over the last eight years, basking in the confidence that comes with the assurance that – for the most part – my values are supported, my programs are funded and my ideologies are promoted at the top levels of government. Now I acknowledge that I must operate from a different framework – my own responsibility to keep the faith, spread the message and to shine the light through every crack and opening. I’m taken back to the truth that transformation comes in small and often hidden places. The kind word, the open heart, the encouraging gesture. I’ve returned to the idea of the mustard seed – the tiny, seemingly irrelevant ingredient that actually becomes the source of sweeping impact and illumination. Those who carry the truth have always been empowered by adversity, and hardship is the state that creates enlightenment and understanding. There remains space for us – vast space – to affect change. No one – no matter how powerful – can snuff out our light or hide it under a bowl. Now is the time to let it shine brighter than ever, and thereby provide warmth and brilliance to all those around us. I’m honored to be on this journey with you – and so many, many others.
Y E S ! So many people feel the same way. Even during a relatively good stretch (with acknowledgement to all my friends in non-expansion states) there is not enough of us or community resource to solve the core problems. Capacity gets sucked up so fast and every new staff and new program soon becomes full if not overwhelmed. The mustard seed grows in beautiful and unexpected ways…and we’ll keep throw them into the wind!!
In this phase of national history, I’m reminded of our national character. When the President-elect is shunning traits and protocols of the highest office, we count on that which makes us Americans in the world’s eyes: optimism, courage, goodness–even a naivety that surprises when we ensure the national safety in the face of evil forces. A segment of the population, which hates democracy, is counting on our goodness to be insufficient: they seek to exploit that; but our goodness has always come through. It will succeed this time, too, and the world will be impressed and joyous. We must breath deeply and carry on. The work of enriching our form of government continues. This is a time of vigilance and action. The small actions are indeed good and essential. Let’s be creative to strengthen our effectiveness, to collaborate with others. Circle the wagons!
Always happy to hitch my wagon to yours my friend!
Matt, I completely agree! Love and advocacy is what we will need going forward to insure that the most vulnerable in our country have access to the services that they need to exist. People should never feel “it won’t happen to me” because that’s what I believed before becoming homeless.
I am thankful for wonderful friends like you who will continue to advocate and insist our voices be heard. Thanks my friend for your words.
Love and advocacy and heroes like you Amy!!! Love you my friend.
Thank you Matt! It’s important we keep our heads up, keep up the fight, and remember just how much we are doing to provide hope to others-even through the little things. Thank you for the words of encouragement. We are preparing for our huge Thanksgiving food giveaway tomorrow. I got word this morning that Catholic Charities took back their commitment to donating 200 turkeys to needy families because after browsing our website, learned that we provide condoms to the community. It broke my heart and ignited a fury deep inside me. You’ve reminded me that it’s just as important to continue building each other up, sharing words of light and love when we ourselves don’t feel hopeful. Abrazos XO
Wow…thanks for sharing this story and your amazing reframe. Our community is so lucky to have you!