Find the Good

A couple of weeks ago, I received a message from my friend Carmen. She asked if I was still blogging.

I admitted that I had been struggling for a while. Writing was not coming easily. As much as I wanted to write about favorite topics like music, baking, tattoos and all things Foo Fighter-related, current events had made that difficult, if not impossible.

I told her I felt angry, all the time. And I don’t like writing when I’m angry. Fire and passion can often inspire a powerful blog, but sustained anger is exhausting, and there is already too much in the world; I don’t want to add to it. Hence my ongoing struggle. Writer’s block in the form of a steaming pile of anger that I can’t seem to work my way around.

As we messaged back and forth, both of us expressed feelings of sadness and concern. We agreed that it’s important to look for the good, the light, if you will, even if some days it’s only a tiny glimmer.

On her darkest days, she told me, she thinks about that time last summer, when Lexi almost died.

“You have to find the good” Carmen said. “There are days that I just repeat to myself: Lexi is still alive; she could have died in July. She’s still here.”

Lexi is Carmen’s oldest daughter. Not long ago, she experienced some serious health problems and was hospitalized. It was a dark time for their family, and for those of us who know them.

But Lexi survived. She fought her way back. Recently she celebrated her 21st birthday.

Carmen and Lexi’s story served as a reminder to me. I needed to get some perspective on things. I couldn’t go on angrily waiting for the world to fall apart. If I was going to get back to blogging on a regular basis, I was going to need some balance. Less of the negative, more of the good. More of the things that restore our faith in humanity, at least until the next White House press briefing or outlandish presidential proclamation.

In spite of the constant feelings of uncertainty, there have been some amazing things happening lately. There’s a movement afoot. Maybe you’ve noticed. The new administration seems to have awakened a sleeping giant, a wave of determined citizens carrying signs and wearing pink pussycat hats.

All over the country, people of all genders, colors, faiths, and orientations are marching together, in support of all kinds of causes: the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, people of color, immigrants, Native Americans, the health of the planet. Pick a weekend, pick a city. You’ll find at least one, and probably multiple, marches and protests taking place.

Lackadaisical elected officials from coast to coast, who’ve been sleepwalking through their duties as representatives of the people, are suddenly drowning in a sea of postcards, letters, and faxes from concerned constituents, who have let it be known that they are unhappy with the direction our country is headed.

And in spite of all the hateful rhetoric and negativity from the President – everything is a mess, a disaster, or a catastrophe – good people continue to be good to each other. In times of crisis (and I can’t think of a better word for what America is going through), people pull together. We need to hang on to that energy.

Rather than wallowing in the negativity, we must, as Carmen reminded me, find the good. And if you can’t find the good, well, you may just have to create some yourself.

Just before Christmas, I was feeling low. Still battling a deep blue, post-election funk.

Then, I heard on the news that Kellogg’s, the cereal folks, had decided to pull advertising from far-right ‘news’ organization Breitbart, causing Breitbart folks to demand a boycott on Kellogg’s products. Which pissed me off.

So I marched myself down to my local Target (yes, the same Target chain that allows its customers to use the bathroom of their choosing without inspecting birth records or genitalia, and so has frequently been targeted – HA! – for boycotts also.)

I purchased about $100 worth of Kellogg’s cereal and breakfast bars, and took everything to the Tarrant Area Food Bank. A relatively small gesture, in the grand scheme of things, but one which lightened my heart and certainly reminded me of what the Christmas season is about. At least what it’s about if you’re not too busy ranting about Starbucks cups, or vilifying people who say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

At any rate, it brought me out of my funk.

So, how do you find the good? The most important thing to remember is that there’s no wrong way to get involved and make the world better. Here are a few ideas that might help:

  1. They say all politics is local, and that’s certainly where things start. We didn’t get where we are today by too much political involvement from regular folks like you and me, we got here because people weren’t paying attention. Get involved in the process, help to organize at the local level, volunteer to work on a campaign, or run for office yourself. At the very least, become an active and regular voter, and know the candidates and issues in your area. Make this a priority. Your vote is your voice. This is not just a saying, it’s a fact.
  2. If you can’t stomach political activity, (beyond voting, which is non-negotiable!) find other ways to get involved in your community. Become a volunteer at your neighborhood school, the local food bank, your nearby animal shelter, or any one of a jillion other organizations that need your help. Non-profits are always struggling with limited budgets, which means most of them are understaffed and would be thrilled to have volunteers. Find your passion and offer your time.
  3. Support local arts/education programs. Rumor has it that the Trump Administration is going to cut funding/eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. That means museums, theater companies, and any number of other performing arts programs are in danger. If these programs matter to you, become a member or patron; subscribe to public radio/television, join a museum, attend a symphony or ballet performance, get season tickets to your local community theater. We need the arts to remind us of what makes us human.
  4. If you don’t know how to address a particular problem that concerns you (like the recent rash of immigrant deportations and bans, the assault on women’s reproductive rights, or the rise of hate crimes) and you have some extra money sitting around, there are plenty of terrific humanitarian organizations that you can help by donating. You don’t have to have buckets of money to make a difference. Set up an ongoing monthly donation of $5 or $10 to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, The Trevor Project, etc. Your money will be well spent and you’ll barely miss it.
  5. And if you can’t afford to donate money, again, revisit Steps 1 and 2. Offer to stuff envelopes or answer phones for a cause that you care about.
  6. Finally, support the media, which is working overtime right now to bring you real news. Renew your newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Pick just about any news outlet that Trump calls fake – the NY Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, etc. Use your head. Support investigative journalism. The Fourth Estate matters, more now than ever before.

 

Seek the light. Find the good. It’s out there, no matter how ugly the world feels right now.

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