In case you were wondering in the clamor of contentious midterm election runoffs, endless and increasingly devastating California wildfires plus daily gun violence perpetrated by homegrown terrorists in schools, workplaces and faith communities, there are signs of hope. One recent example: the losing senatorial candidate from Arizona, Martha McSally, gave a grace-filled concession speech wishing winner Kyrsten Sinema well as she takes office in January.
Sen. Sinema will be the first female senator in the state’s history. What must have been a bitter loss for the well-qualified McSally did not keep her from showing true regard for her opponent and her country in her message to voters. That authentic gesture is a perfect example of how to bring the people of this nation back together in the face of huge differences.
For the first time in our country’s history the House of Representatives will be a more accurate reflection of the real people who are its citizens. Women and men of differing colors, faiths, ages and gender orientations have been elected to represent all, not just some of the people. The possibilities for real change and a return to civility are countless.
Another example, provided by CBS News on social media, displayed a video of opposing candidates for the Vermont House of Representatives, one male, one female. Following a public debate they closed the event by playing and singing together a song expressing the yearning for more cooperative efforts in government. Kum Ba Yah moments, most recently a source of humor and disdain, are again worthy of attention.
It is doubtful that any of us are missing the endless, often falsely accusatory political ads too frequently televised for candidates running for state and national offices in past months. Few candidates avoided using out-of-context “facts” against opponents while spinning their own self-promoting records. Don’t you wonder if any of it made a difference in outcomes?
In the wake of those tirades, another sign of hope for me was found in the presentation of author and advocate for self-giving, Wes Moore, as he spoke to the Economic Club of Southwestern Michigan. In telling his story of emergence from an angry, self-destructive youth to a disciplined, educated, empathetic man of color, he never gave reference to a political party or group, never blamed anyone, but simply invited his listeners into his experiences and moments of transition from potential failure to present day success, shaped by expectations of his family and others who saw his potential and convinced him that he was worthy of better choices. When asked about his work as a White House Fellow and special assistant to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice following military service in Afghanistan, he spoke admiringly of her dedicated and rigorous service to our country with no reference to her or his political views. The point of his entire presentation was about contributing energetically to the world in which we are born, contrasted to its sad opposite, contributing nothing or worse, choosing a destructive path.
While there is ongoing criticism and annoyance from some quarters with the throngs of women, men and youth who are demonstrating and speaking out across the nation in favor or against governmental actions, I find it encouraging that the silent majority so noticeable in recent decades is no longer silent, and journalists, threatened with silencing, are continuing to publish needed information.
This corner of Michigan is home to many individuals and organizations dedicated to making our communities safe, welcoming and affirming for all inhabitants and visitors. Rather than offering my personal list of contributors, I invite you to take a brief moment in this season of counting our blessings to consider who and what in your community makes you proud or motivates you to serve, who among us is fighting for the rights of others, bringing people of all shapes, colors and orientations together, modeling and teaching positive behaviors and skills. Who among us helps to bring healing of body, mind and spirit to the suffering and hope to the hopeless? Who brings joy via music, drama and other spirit-lifting opportunities? A few minutes of appreciation and gratitude can go a long way to counterbalance the many negatives.
Melinda Stibal lives in Coloma. Her email address is: email@example.com.