My mom always taught me that you can’t control what other people do; you can only control your reaction. I was reminded of this lesson this morning as I woke up to check the election results.
My Facebook feed was filled with strong emotions and reactions. Fear. Despair. Confusion. Sadness. Empathy. Even a little celebration.
As I scrolled, I read posts that channeled these emotions in various directions. Finger-pointing at those who didn’t vote, or who voted third-party. “I told you so’s” from supporters of candidates who were left behind in the primaries. Shame and judgment. Boasting and comments to “suck it up,” or “grow up already, America.” General sadness and dread.
As I’ve learned to do throughout this election cycle, I chose my own reaction: love, compassion, and the realization that the work we’ve been doing continues to be needed. I posted this as my contribution to social media land this morning.
Before you boast, blame, and point fingers, remember that the popular vote is pretty evenly divided. In other words, someone you love and respect voted for a different candidate than you, or perhaps didn't vote at all. If you already believed that America was great, keep up that spirit and hold up your friends and family who are hurting or scared. If you wanted it to be great again, here is your opportunity to live that out - you, too, should hold up your friends and family who are hurting, scared, confused, and hopeless, starting today. Regardless of who sleeps in the White House on January 20th, we are responsible for each other. Let's rise to the occasion and be indivisible.
The divisive nature of this election is what’s alarmed me more than any of the candidates, their policies, or other big picture hypotheticals. In the end, we can only control our own reactions, and we can only impact our respective spheres of influence. I’m choosing to react with love, and to continue doing the work I’ve been doing to make my community better and more equitable.
But I’m also not naïve.
I realize the great privilege that comes with this choice. I can choose not to fear, and to love instead, because I am privileged as a highly educated heterosexual white woman. Yes, I have markers that make me “different,” particularly in my current community, but I do not carry the burden of threat, of further marginalization, of exclusion.
So what do I do with this privilege? Act. Be the change. Leverage my privilege to create opportunities for my friends and neighbors who are marginalized. Because that’s what neighbors do, and that’s how I show love.
My challenge to anyone reading this today is this: act. Channel your frustration into activity that will benefit others. Leverage your privilege to love and protect your neighbors and friends who may feel threatened. Lift each other up. Small steps are all that’s needed; a series of them can make a wave.
Here’s one way for you to act, if you’re keen on empowering the next generation of strong women. But maybe you feel called to act in another way. Maybe you are more passionate about serving the homeless, about LGBTQ issues, about equity for children and adults of color, about advocating for undocumented children and English learners. Find your cause, and act.
Maybe you have more time than money, or more money than time. Act and give in the way that fits best – but, for goodness sake, act. We need that momentum, that unity, right about now.
Need an incentive to act? Send me proof of your action in the weeks to come – a receipt from an online donation to a charity and cause you support, a picture of you doing the work – and I’ll send you a little handmade token of love. E-mail your proof to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s keep loving each other. Love always wins.