Changing What We Can’t Accept

After the election, I re-subscribed to the Sunday edition of The New York Times. I’d long canceled the paper edition because we would forget to open it, and the stacks of paper that went unread and into the recycling bin were wasteful and ridiculous.

For those of us who are appalled and shocked and outraged at the election of Donald Trump, we’re handling it in different ways. I met a woman the other night at an event in Austin who said, “In the 60’s, when we needed to fight, we took to our typewriters and wrote letters. We channeled our anger with action.”  Some friends are posting simple ways to take action by calling elected officials. Others are angry and vocal about it and I understand their need to be. Another friend posted a powerful quote by Angela Davis, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” I’m going to print that out and put it on the refrigerator, because that is how I believe we will make it through whatever is about to happen to the country we love.

I am not proud of what I’ve done since the election, because what I have done for the most part is nothing. I am lingering stubbornly in the denial phase of grief. I have consciously, for the most part, stopped watching the news. My husband, who watches political news as a hobby and a sport and a passion, has had to endure my loud groaning when I enter the room and he is watching the news. I’ve become steadfast in my ability to plug my ears and shout, “Nanananana” in hopes of making it all go away.

In the meantime, quietly on the sidelines, one of my dearest friends took another approach. She researched ways to help Syrian refugees. While I distracted myself with school applications for my youngest daughter and diving full-force into a new job, my friend was going through her background check and learning ways to help those who are the most vulnerable. She was changing the things she couldn’t accept.

Meanwhile, at my house, three weeks’ worth of New York Times Sunday editions sat waiting for my attention. This morning, I prioritized sitting down with coffee to dig in and to begin a tradition of Sunday morning with the Times. In the living room, my husband was watching, “Meet the Press,” and I decided that I could distract myself from the noise box by digging into the newspaper.

Confession: I skipped every article talking about Trump, and there are many. Too soon. Too raw. I also skimmed the articles about the alt right, as being informed about this nonsense is still too raw for me. I read a fascinating column about workplace surveys, and it sparked thoughts about writing a blog about Glassdoor, because I have big opinions about it. Made note on phone: Do employee surveys really spark change?

Confession #2: When I hit the style section, I got a little giddy. There’s nothing like feeding denial about the true problems of the world than to read about people’s preference for fancy headphones. I turned to page six, and the headline and the accompanying drawing drew me in:

From Syria, With Love.”

I read every word of this stunning essay and when it ended, I sat in our living room while Robert Gates talked about foreign affairs, tears streaming down my face. Not only has the author provided a beautiful piece to show the humanity associated with such a situation – and even the humor – she reminds us that when we help those who need us, we receive priceless rewards in return.

Across from the essay is an advertisement for Saks with Prada perfume and Burberry scarves. The juxtaposition of an article about a family of refugees who came to Atlanta with just a few bags placed directly across the extremely expensive full page ad to fund such a paper really struck me: What exactly are my priorities? I happen to own that bottle of fancy perfume because at some point on a holiday, I asked for it by name. What if instead, I had taken my family and spent time volunteering to help people who need the very basic necessities of life?

If you are deciding between reading the rest of my post or reading the essay on Syria, stop right now and click on the link and read the essay. If you are like me and you’ve spent weeks hiding from the world, read the essay.

Read the essay, then if you’re up for it, let’s take some action. Here at the end of the year when I can admit fully I haven’t bought a single Christmas gift because I’m also in denial that Christmas is next week, but maybe that’s not a bad thing. Perhaps this year, we can simplify the consumerism and focus on the things that matter most.  Perhaps as we say goodbye to 2016, and man oh man, are we all ready to do that, we can refocus our efforts to make the world a better place, one small act of kindness at a time.

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