One of my favorite lines from the classic film Apollo 13 is “Houston, we have a problem.” Well, the sad truth facing society today is like that iconic line: “America, we have a problem.” Unlike, Apollo 13, life is unscripted…but the transgressions of our past are etched in stone. Personally, while I, myself, have never been physically enslaved, I am only three generations removed from that cruel institution that our country was built upon, which left a lasting effect upon a generation of people. So the question remains, how can we begin to tear off the band-aid of our dark history and heal together? The answer to that is complex, but with all problems; however, come solutions and it is important that we collectively take progressive steps true “freedom” for all citizens of this great nation.
Think Before You Speak
I wrote a song in France 12 years ago entitled “Le Mot Juste,” which literally translates to: “The Good Word.” The premise of that song was to show how powerful words and the way they are presented truly are, and its message is more relevant now than ever. Currently, we are living in a house divided. Often times, discussions end in shouts, disagreement, or worse all because neither party involved possessed the civility to formulate their viewpoint in a manner not seen as condescending or threatening. It is time to move beyond this behavior. It’s okay to disagree with someone. It is okay to have a conversation that causes emotions to rise. It is NOT; however, okay to have no dialogue at all. Furthermore, it is not okay to simply skim the surface without diving deep into discussions for fear of misunderstanding. Misunderstanding leads to a deeper connection, and progress cannot develop unless we begin to engage in deeper, more meaningful conversations.
There’s a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink. The book focuses on the power of thinking without thinking. The heart of this message is centered around the theory that we often assess the world around us, and individuals we encounter, using limited evidence—usually gathered within the blink of an eye. We make assumptions about individuals, subconsciously, within a fraction of second. I challenge us to override that system of determination and allow ourselves to abandon any preconceived judgments innately embedded and allow ourselves the opportunity to see each person we encounter for who they truly are. As a child, during summer vacation, there were days I had to go work with my mother when there was no sitter available. Often times, I would be treated to lunch at the restaurant of the ground floor of her building by a polite, kind-hearted elderly man that was always willing to share life stories with me. It was not until years later that I found out my mother’s “friend” was a homeless man that was treating me to lunch with money given to him by my mother. As the executive director of her job, I witnessed her show the same level of respect and humility toward that man that she did during encounters with mayors and state senators. From an early age, she stressed the importance of never looking down upon anyone, regardless of their life situation or societal status, and that lesson has lived with me ever since. On a larger scale, we can begin to heal once we begin, as a nation, to embrace that same attitude.