By Norris Burkes and Sara Brakhane Dec 4 2020
No matter which “turkey” you voted for, these post-election days seem to shadow our holiday celebrations. Stir the pandemic into the mix, and the political tensions between our friends and family, and watch the pot quickly overboil.
But need it be like that? Is there a way we can reduce our high emotional temperatures while simultaneously raising our low spirits?
My search for answers took me back to last March when I was sitting in an orientation meeting for Chispa Project volunteers. I was there with two dozen of my readers who’d come to Honduras to establish a library for an intercity elementary school.
Sara, my daughter and Chispa Project founder, began the meeting of our deer-in-the-headlight volunteers by reviewing some Community Guidelines inspired by Dr. Chris Linder of the University of Utah. These pointers gave good counsel to help our learned crew with the challenges of completing a library on a deadline while navigating a new country.
Looking at these guidelines again today, I’ve chosen three tips that may help reunite us at our virtual holiday tables this year.
My favorite guideline is Listen to Understand. Social media enables us to publicize our opinions in a one-way conversation to the world. Reposting is often just sermonizing a clever phrase or photo in hopes that we might convert the “other side.”
But real conversations begin with listening. If I want to rebuild broken bridges between political differences, I must listen to understand the heart of the speaker. What are they afraid of? What are they hoping for? What makes them say what they are saying?
The second recommendation is Allow for Complexity. Election campaigns tend to saddle the opposing side with precise meanings of Democrat, Republican or other political parties. The problem is, we as individuals are not so clear-cut and simple.
Complex means sometimes what is true for me, may not be true for you, but our realities co-exist and are valid at the same time.
For instance, my reality is that the police are often helpful to me. That’s not always true for minorities. I travel with little fear, but, like most women, my daughters must think twice before they travel alone at night.
Our own experiences shape our politics. This holiday season, how can we begin to understand the complexity around which our politics are formed?
The final guideline is to Attempt Compassion for Yourself and Others.
Why for yourself? For me, as I grow in understanding people who are different than me, compassion for myself means forgiving myself for poor choices I’ve made in the past, or even things I still do. There are things I understand better now that I wish I had handled differently – the treatment of a gay coworker, “mansplaining” things to the women in my life, or how I’ve previously claimed white privilege.
Compassion for others means understanding how we are all in different places. Those differences have formed us into the unique country we celebrate today. It takes conservative and liberal actions to keep our country afloat, regardless of political party. Conservatives help to keep us out of debt and liberal progressives fight for healthcare for all.
Hopefully, you will find Chispa’s community guidelines helpful in making you a better friend and family member. But in the end, I suggest you turn to the guideline that has helped me most in life.
1 Timothy 2:1-2 tells us “that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
Stay safe. Stay compassionate. Don’t be a turkey.
Read about ways to help the Chispa Project assist specific Honduran schools affected by COVID and the two recent hurricanes: www.chispaproject.org/SOS
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