Tag Archives: Privilege

How Could You NOT VOTE At This Point???

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.” –Larry J. Sabato, Pendulum Swing

Hello friend,

I turned 18 in the Autumn of 1990, exactly three weeks before the mid-term elections. I had no clue. Were mid-terms important back then? If they were, no one ever told me so. I would guess that my parents voted in them, but I don’t recall them ever saying so or encouraging me to get to the polls. It was little old North Dakota, so I don’t know how much of consequence we had on the ballot. We did have our one House of Representatives member, of course. At any rate, that November of my senior year of high school, voting was not on my mind. I don’t know when the first time a mid-term election was on my mind. “Voting,” to me, meant voting for President. And sure, you filled in the ovals for the other races on the ballot. But come on, you were there to vote for President.

Gosh, I hope today’s teens and 20somethings are more awake and civically engaged than I was!

I shake my head now at my blissful ignorance of politics in my young adulthood. As fired-up as I get today about almost every issue and candidate, you would never guess at how thoroughly clueless and unengaged I was back then. Thank Goodness for evolution!

As a straight, White, middle-class male in America, I could pretty much go politically blindfolded through life and be none-the-wiser. Even though the system is set up to primarily benefit the rich, it takes pretty good care of people that fit my description, too, no matter which party is in charge. That is called privilege. I could choose to not think about it and get away with it.

My sisters are that way–claim to not have time for it or not understand the different sides or just don’t care to step into the potential minefield by having an opinion or taking a stand–and of course they are not alone. It is obviously a dicey time in our country to try to have a meaningful political discussion, so I understand the inclination to maintain neutrality through ignorance.

But the more I think of this rationale and the privilege that makes it an option, the more disgusted I get. If you have so much privilege that you can afford to not even educate yourselves on the major issues of our time and the people who are competing to run our country, then I would argue that you are even more obligated to educate yourself and find a way to empathize with the people who are most vulnerable and affected by these policies and elected leaders (i.e., the ones who don’t share your privilege). With great gifts come great responsibility, right? If you don’t feel compelled to raise your awareness and take a stand on issues by casting a vote, you are shirking your responsibility. Shame on you for that.

But I am not writing today simply to appeal to the most apathetic among us, hoping to get their lazy butts out to vote in the upcoming election (or any election in the future; I hope what I am saying applies to the end of time). I am appealing to everyone!

Of course, I had a funny moment of weakness as I initially thought of this plea to make your voice heard at the ballot box. It went sort of like this in my head: “Why do you want to appeal to EVERYONE? What about just to everybody who might vote the same way you vote? Isn’t that the point: to get all the people who think like you to the polls and none of the opposition? You know, so you can actually WIN. Isn’t that really the result you want?”

Ahh, that does sound delicious, doesn’t it? Arouse my fellow liberals and pacify the conservatives, making sure only the invigorated side votes while the other side sleeps smugly through Election Day. I was tempted, I admit.

But as awful as I have felt these last two years under unrestrained conservatism–cringing with my LGBTQ friends and friends of color as rights get restricted and hate crimes rise, cringing for the loss of environmental protections, cringing for the poor and people with pre-existing conditions, cringing for the press corps under attack and the judicial branch losing its independence, cringing every time I hear the word “Tweet” on the news–the insatiably curious side of me has been so looking forward to this mid-term election (as well as the 2020 race for President) just to see how we would react and who we would decide ourselves to be next.

Now I am desperate for every single eligible voter to cast a ballot. I need to know exactly who we are.

The Republicans now control the White House, both houses of Congress, and the judiciary. The conservatives who may have felt squeamish about Donald Trump’s vulgarity and his struggles with the truth during the Republican primary season of 2016 voted for him to be President anyway. Some did so wholeheartedly, others (I want to believe) imagined that the office would temper him and that he would become much more “Presidential” once he became President. He has certainly delivered the conservatives their Supreme Court justices that will shape America for the next half-century, at least; I am sure that is appreciated on many fronts. But there is also a reason that he is the darling of White supremacist groups. To my eye, the man told us all exactly who he was before the last election. But even if you couldn’t believe that then and assumed we would know more later, well, I don’t believe you could have any doubt as to who this man is now

I know, I know, Trump isn’t even on the ballot in this election. It’s a mid-term! But let’s be clear: almost to a person, every Republican Congressperson has toed the Trump line for the last two years, and few have so much as raised an eyebrow (much less a voice) in the face of their leader’s most repulsive acts and words. Everything he has done has required approval–through silence and votes–of the party leaders and members. So, whether you were initially in denial of this or have embraced it all the way, make no mistake: the GOP is the Party of Trump. If you want to keep it that way, get out and vote Republican!

As for the Democrats and other more-liberal-minded folks, these people have had two full years of sheer outrage and dismay. Lots of “THIS IS NOT WHO WE ARE!!!” and #NotMyPresident type of stuff. Pick an issue, any issue–health care, the environment, gun control, LGBTQ rights, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a seemingly daily barrage or racist and/or misogynistic dogwhistles–and the liberals have been kicked in the crotch with it for two straight years. Suffice it to say that if there was ever a time a Democrat or liberal-minded person should want to vote, that time is now!

I also very much want the “independent voters” and third-party voters to show up to the polls in droves. For the third-party folks, this feels like a wonderful time to show the system that there are sufficient numbers of you to make a difference (I actually think this is the perfect time in our nation’s history to dissolve the two-party system and create several, as I wrote to you a few years ago) and that your ideas are good ones. As for the independents, or “swing voters,” as they are often called on Election Night coverage when the pundits tell us that these voters are the ones who decide elections, I cannot imagine a time in recent history when the lines were more clearly drawn between the two major parties and you are not splitting hairs to decide between them. Sides must be taken, even if you are not pledging permanent allegiance. I hope your conscience calls you to the polls to make your vote count.

And finally, to those privileged folks I mentioned earlier who don’t like to get mixed up in politics and choose not to educate themselves about the issues of our time, if you are thinking your chosen ignorance and silence mean that you bear no responsibility for the outcomes (near and far), I offer you this quote by Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel: “Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” If you don’t want to speak up in the town square or on Facebook, the least you can do is slip behind a private curtain and cast a considered vote.

Because I really want to know.

I want to know who we are in my city. I want to know who we are in my state. I want to know who we are in my beloved country.

I have already filled out my ballot and sent it in. I know where I stand, and my position will be counted. But the only way I can know for sure where my world stands is if all those who are eligible actually vote.

And I really, really want to know.

How about you? Can you think of any possible reason why you–or anyone–might not want to vote in the upcoming election? Open up your journal and explore the country as it is and how you would like it to be if you could cast the deciding vote on everything? First and foremost, will you be voting in the upcoming election? Which races on your ballot are you most passionate about? Are you more engaged now than you normally would be for a mid-term election? Why? Is it because you see your values being threatened? Would you be more excited about voting if you believed more in the actual politicians? Are there any politicians out there–on your local, state, or national level–that make you think, “If only they all had this person’s character, intelligence, and wisdom, we would be in a much better place as a country?” Do you think that about anyone on your ballot for this election? How do you feel about people who say, “I don’t like either candidate (e.g. Trump or Clinton), so I am not voting at all!” or “Politics disgust me; I’m not voting!”?   Is that simple practicality, folly, cowardice, or something else? Is voting an act of patriotism?  Which issues are the most meaningful to you when it comes to getting you to the polls to vote for measures and for candidates who share your view on the topic? Has that priority list changed over the years? Are the people in your social circle more or less likely to vote than you are? Do you talk to each other about it–not necessarily about the issues but about getting out to vote? If you have not voted in the past, what were your reasons? Why do you think America has, historically speaking, had such a poor voter turnout? Should Election Day be a national holiday so that we all have a greater opportunity to get to the polls? How much truth is there in the “My single vote doesn’t really count anyway” argument? How much value do you place in voting your conscience even when your vote probably won’t sway an election to your side (e.g. in 2000, while living in North Dakota, I voted for the Green Party’s Ralph Nader for President, knowing full well that Republican George W. Bush would win the state’s electoral votes)? Is voting for third parties “wasting your vote?” What advice would you give to someone who supports a third party candidate in a race that is neck-and-neck between the Republican and Democrat in the race? Should they vote the third party, or vote for the one they like better out of the Republican or Democrat? Does it make your blood boil–as it does mine–when you hear stories of people (such as Native Americans in North Dakota or African-Americans in Georgia) being denied or made to jump through hoops just to exercise their right to vote? How does it strike you to hear that women have been allowed to vote in America for less than 100 years? Does it increase your desire to vote? What else would it take to get you to the point that you will absolutely vote every time? Is this crazy moment in American history enough? Leave me a reply and let me know: How could you NOT vote in this election?

Claim yourself,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you, please share it on your social media channels (and soon!). Let’s all rock the vote!

P.P.S. If this way of self-reflection captures your attention, check out my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering The Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online retailers.

How Fragile We Are: A Temporary Life in a Vulnerable Body

“Nature of life is fragile. Uncontrollable events happen all the time in life.” –Kilshore Bansal

Hello friend,

I had quite a health scare last week that left me physically weak and emotionally rattled. It never fails to amaze me by just how little we are hanging on.

My pain came on quite suddenly Monday afternoon. I had lay down on the sofa with a mug of cocoa to write in my journal. By the end of my entry, my stomach felt so overfull that I was disgusted with what a glutton I was. I figured that I would get up and move around, maybe use the bathroom, and things would settle down and be fine. They were not. The pain increased, but I was managing, and by the time I went to bed, I convinced myself that I would be fine in the morning and that my Tuesday would be as ordinary as ever.

How wrong I was.

I did all I could to get myself going in the morning and off to work. I felt horrible but told myself that I wouldn’t think about the doctor unless I still felt bad on Wednesday. After all, I didn’t have the fever and other symptoms of the nasty flu that has been such demolishing people all Winter, so I did not worry about infecting anyone else. It was just my own pain–constant, knee-buckling pain–in one localized area of my body. However, by late afternoon, I had begun to believe that I was not going to make it anywhere on Wednesday. I needed immediate help.

When the doctor at Urgent Care seemed confounded enough to send me home with some Maalox, I began to worry. I knew it was something serious, not just a bad tummy ache. As a last resort, she ordered a blood test, the results of which had her ordering me to go directly to the Emergency Room.

It was a quiet, solemn ten minutes in the car. “So this is how my story ends, eh?” That was the first thought in my head. I thought of all the people who have unwittingly embarked on their final day or final chapter of existence under the most ordinary circumstances. They got up and went to work that day as usual, and by the end of the day, they had been crushed by a car or had a stroke or received a diagnosis that would signal the their demise and final destiny. I thought I might be in that last category. I envisioned the ER doctors, after a series of scans, informing me that a malignant tumor had taken over the organs of my abdomen and that there was nothing more they could do but try to keep me comfortable until my certain death arrived, all of which I then had to explain to my wife when she arrived at the hospital. I wasn’t scared or panicked on that drive, but I definitely had a good cry. Maybe it was that awful vision, maybe it was the pain, and maybe it was that I was all alone. In any case, I wept for the final few minutes of the drive. Then, when I pulled into the parking lot, I got myself together to face my new reality, whatever that would be.

A couple of lonely and painful hours later–with a few more cries mixed in when the nurses would leave my room–after those envisioned scans were completed, I lay there contemplatively and awaited the results. I marveled at how, at any moment, some news would casually enter the room and either shatter my entire existence (as well as the lives of my wife and kids) or grant me a temporary reprieve. I pondered disbelievingly at how nonchalant that Fate can be, how lives get snuffed out and turned upside down in the most ordinary moments.  

Drunk driver. Aneurysm. School shooting. Diagnosis.

All day long. Every day of the year.  

Was the coming moment–the one that was so ordinary to everyone but me–about to be my moment? I wasn’t fretting, but I wasn’t forcing optimism, either. I think I was mostly in awe of the absolute powerlessness I felt. I was supremely aware of the blunt fact that Fate could do whatever she wanted with the fragile vessel that was my body, that it was completely out of my control and always would be. I served at her pleasure. There was the sense that the IVs and other tubes and machines I was hooked up to were there simply to administer helplessness. It was palpable.

I had never felt so insignificant in all my life.

So, what did I feel when the doctor came in with her sober face and her “I’m sorry to have to tell you this…” tone and told me that I had an appendicitis and would need to have surgery immediately? I felt relief. Relief that I got to go back home in a day or two to resume my normal life of pretending that I know how each day will go and that I have some control over the outcome. Relief that I got to go chase my kids around again and act as though we will certainly have all the time in the world together. Relief that my wife and I could resume our happy assumption that we will grow old together. Relief that I got to write another book and more of these letters to you. And ultimately, relief that I could feel like, “OF COURSE I will do all of that.” Of course.

I suppose it is an amazing privilege to live in a place and time that we can so easily delude ourselves that all will be well for the foreseeable future. I live in American suburbia in the 21st century. In spite of the nonsense in Washington and the regular mass shootings around the country, it is my privilege to drink clean water, have access to quality medical care, and feel physically safe where I live and reasonably certain of what comes next.

But let’s be honest: it’s still an illusion of safety and certainty. Those things aren’t real. We are at the whims of Fate. That aneurysm or drunk driver can hit at any moment.

That was the sobering reality that hit me on the way to the Emergency Room and remained on my shoulder as I waited for the doctor to deliver the news. I knew that she could just as easily speak the words “stomach cancer” as “appendicitis” when she walked through the door, and that Fate’s flip-of-the-coin might bring the other answer to the person waiting in the next room. We were both powerless to change her verdict.

Even after I received the “good news” and felt that big exhalation of relief, that peek behind the curtain of Reality left me rattled emotionally. For the next few days, I was a raw nerve.

When my kids came to see me the next day in the hospital, it was all I could do to keep from bursting out crying. They were the thing I stood to lose on that coin flip, after all, and I had shuddered even more at the thought of them losing me at their age. If they weren’t already wearing Fear on their faces at seeing me hooked up to all those tubes, I know I would have let out an involuntary sob. As it was, I fought it back and just told them I loved them and missed them terribly in the day that had passed. I was the same way when my Mom called. I could hardly breathe–much less speak–in my effort to keep the floodgates closed.

The thing that finally burst the dam was a movie. On the morning I was released from the hospital, I went home to nap in my bed. When I woke, I started a movie that I had long wanted to watch on Netflix, “Fruitvale Station.” It is based on a true story of a young man’s last day on Earth, ending in his murder. On a different day, I might have finished watching and been angry at the injustice of the murder and sad about the loss to the young man’s mother, child, and girlfriend, but I think I would have moved on without much drama. Not this day. No, I lay in bed and sobbed and sobbed at the random and senseless cruelty of the world and how we walk daily along that razor’s edge between a happy normalcy and a completely shattered existence. Shortly after I stopped crying, my wife came home, took one look at me, and asked what had happened. I couldn’t even get the words out; I just sobbed and sputtered some more.

That peek behind the curtain had broken me. It was Life and the unfairness and uncertainty of it. And it was the sheer recklessness of Fate. How it could take that young man with the beautiful daughter and his newfound resolution to be better. How it could casually erase the lives of children in the middle of a normal school day. How it could nonchalantly shake the Earth and crumble the homes in one town but not another, then turn around and scatter terminal diagnoses all over the planet. And it was the absolute clarity that, despite the fact that I got off easy this time, it could just as easily have gone the other way.

All of that reality caught up to me in that moment, and I let it all out through my eyes.

In the days that have followed, my body has grown stronger, and with it I have rebuilt my illusion. I no longer spend the day thinking about how completely fragile each of our existences is. I am getting past that jarring sensation I felt upon realizing how temporary and random are our lives and deaths. I am planning for the future again, even as I am reminding myself to be present and enjoy each moment I have here with these beautiful people that I call mine. I am telling myself that waking up early for the gym each morning will let me live a longer, happier, and healthier life. I am trying to be “normal” again.

I have to admit though, that there is a thin veil over my normal now. I got spooked last week on my way to the hospital. Spooked by Reality. You know that traumatized feeling you get when someone just about rams into you with their car as you are driving–that freaked out, breathless, sobering kind of spook? It was like that, but instead of dissipating after a few minutes, it stayed. So I am wondering: will this gun-shy feeling go away with time, or will every moment of joy and freedom and planning and dreaming be tinged with that peek behind the curtain, that look into Fate’s eyes, the same way that Death has a way of leaving that tinge on every moment thereafter? I will have to wait and see, I suppose.

Still, I can’t help but think that it will become harder and harder to shake the truth that our existence–my existence–is a temporary and uncertain one in a body that is vulnerable to the whims of Fate and random chance. I’m not sure that will ever quite sit well with me.

How about you? How do you make peace with the vulnerability of your body and the random and uncertain nature of Life in general? Open up your journal and go deep as you pull back the curtain on this topic that we typically keep ourselves in denial about. How often, if ever, do you allow yourself to fully absorb how vulnerable your body is to any number of potential destructions? Does it take a personal crisis, such as a car crash or medical emergency? Do you feel it when there is an “act of God” that makes the news, such as an earthquake, hurricane, or tsunami that kills lots of people? How about things nearby, such as when someone in your community is stricken with cancer or killed by a drunk driver? Does it hit you at all when you hear of tragedies further away from home, such as a famine in Africa or a genocide in Syria? Do you brush those things quickly past your awareness, or do you allow them in? How does each of these types of peril affect you? What makes one type more staggering than the other? Does it have to happen directly to you to affect you deeply, or is your empathy enough to be shaken by these occurrences in others? When you feel it, how quickly are you able to get back to your illusion of safety and security? Is that a healthy and necessary denial? Is it also healthy to have these periodic reminders (read: scares) to help you to see that life is to be cherished and not wasted? Overall, how free are you of the shadow of this near-death existence that you live every day? How has that changed as you have aged? Leave me a reply and let me know: How do you navigate life in your fragile and temporary body?  

Spread sunlight,

William

P.S. If this resonated with you today, please share it on your social media channels. Let us grow and thrive in community!

What’s the Difference Between You and Everybody Else?

“To be oneself, simply oneself, is so amazing and utterly unique an experience that it’s hard to convince oneself so singular a thing happens to everybody.” –Simone de Beauvoir, Prime of Life

Hello friend,

I remember when I was in my twenties. I was out in the world doing my thing. I was meeting tons of different people, figuring out how we all fit together. In all of those countless interactions, the thing that always seemed to bother me the most was when someone claimed to understand me, to know what I am all about. I was so sure that they weren’t even close to comprehending my essence and what made me tick. I just knew that I was completely different from everyone else and that no one could imagine my depths.

There are passages in my very first journal that allude to this feeling of being different and how that feeling isolated me.

“I am destined to be a loner, for no one can understand the things that drive me. I feel I am becoming more and more ‘abnormal’ as the days go by.” –July 7, 1994

“And even if I let some pretty close, I’ll always be alone, because no one can see what’s there. Some will claim to, but they won’t know the half of it.” –February 22, 1995

Ironically, at the same time that I was being regularly offended by people claiming to get me, I was arrogantly assuming that I could read everyone else like a book, as this passage reveals:

“I think the main reason for my silence and solitude goes back to the original issue: I feel I have these gifts or abilities in my mind that make me feel unlike the rest of society or members of my species. I truly believe, when I am honest with myself, that I am “different” from the rest, somehow cut from a different cloth than the rest of mankind. Although I am a believer in the thought that we are all truly different, I believe there are things inside of me that are beyond what lies inside the minds and souls of others. I feel I can truly understand every man and his thoughts and feelings, and then go beyond that to a very large place that no one else can know.” –July 25, 1997

Oh, the self-centered thoughts of a young adult! Those entries fascinate me—and embarrass me a little–all these years later. You may not be surprised to learn that my perspective has changed somewhat in the two decades that have passed since then.

These days, I am simply less sure. I don’t assume I know as much as I used to assume. I think I read people well, empathize with their experiences, and take them into my heart so I can feel their joy and pain. But I am quite sure there are hidden depths and dark corners inside them that I haven’t the tools to navigate. That certainty about my uncertainty has humbled me over the years.

I am not sure I have changed as much on the other side of the coin, though. I still tend to think that people don’t understand me very well. Maybe it is because exercises like last week’s 50 Words Challenge reveal that I have a number of complexities to my personality, a lot of conflicting traits that take time to expose.

Understanding the labyrinthine nature of my heart and mind has helped me in my humility, as I figure that most other people are more complex than I ever imagined. At least they might be, and that grain of doubt should keep me as free from certainty and judgment as possible. That uncertainty should keep me always in the moment, receiving them anew as our interactions evolve. It is a good lesson for me.

But how about it: AM I different??? Am I something extraordinary? Is there something totally unique about me? Obviously, the broad range of things that make up our personality and history makes each of us unique. But you know what I mean: Is there something that makes me so unlike most people?

I think that claiming characteristics outright seems a bit presumptuous—arrogant, even—so maybe it is wiser just to list a few potential candidates, ways that I usually feel isolated or unique (again, fully aware that each trait has an infinite number of variations and ways it intersects with our other traits).

One that comes to my mind is my hypersensitivity to oppression and unfairness. I have always been extremely averse to examples of historical, systematic oppression and mistreatment, such as that which our country and its citizens acted out on the American Indians and the African people ripped from their homelands and brought here as slaves (and, of course, everything that followed both of those things). I get the dual reaction of my blood boiling in outrage and my heart being torn to shreds when I think about such injustice. Even with modern examples, when I see a politician or pundit spew hatred or see a friend or family member support that hate-spewer, I become deeply offended by that. My sensitive heart gets broken often by such things.

I have always been that way about perceived unfairness. I think back on all the times I played with cheaters on the tennis court. I would get so appalled by the unfairness that I could hardly function. It is also why I get so worked up about the issue of privilege, such as when I see a highly privileged friend—born into wealth and whiteness and more—look down upon people who were born with fewer advantages and cannot fathom why the privileged should share either money or opportunities with the unprivileged. That ignorance enrages me. The people around me seem to be much less affected by such things. Or maybe they just hide it better.

Besides my sensitivity, the other characteristic that might separate me is my intense attachment to the concept of identifying and following one’s Bliss, dream-chasingk. I was bitten by this obsession before I ever wrote my first journal entry, when I decided to leave school and become an actor. I have sometimes remembered and sometimes forgotten to keep chasing my biggest dreams, but it is so obvious to me how that concept is such an enormous and identifying part of Who I Really Am. It is why you are reading these words in front of you: they are part of my dream.

I seem to be obsessed both with chasing my own dreams and helping others do the same. I see it as so important, even essential, to true happiness and fulfillment in this lifetime. I want it as much for you as I do for me.

The other day I was tooling around on Facebook and happened upon a meme that a friend had shared. It said, “It’s messing people up, this social pressure to ‘find your passion’ and ‘know what it is you want to do’. It’s perfectly fine to just live your moments fully, and marvel as many small and large passions, many small and large purposes enter and leave your life. For many people there is no realization, no bliss to follow, no discovery of your life’s purpose. This isn’t sad, it’s just the way things are. Stop trying to find the forest and just enjoy the trees.”

My first reaction was, “No! That meme was written and shared by people who just haven’t found their passion yet. They will change their tune when they find it.”

But the argument has stuck with me, even haunted me a bit. It made me think about the people in my life and how I am the only one who seems so obsessed by this concept of following my Bliss and living my purpose. I am the only one who thinks it is a great idea to set practical realities aside and just chase my dreams single-mindedly. I am the only one who keeps cheering others to do the same. I guess I think it should be common, should be normal to do that. It just isn’t.

There are probably a handful of other ways I feel myself sticking out from—or retreating from—the crowd. And like I said, I know we are all complex. We are the products of ever-changing intersections of different shades of countless distinct and indistinct qualities that blend with circumstances. But we are all humans. We share the same Earth and the same company. How different can we be?

Still, even though there are 7 billion of us inhabiting this third rock from the sun, I can’t help feeling that I am one of a kind.

How about you? What makes you different from all the rest? Open up your journal and think about the times you have felt unique, special, or misunderstood. Which of your characteristics seem to bring about these moments of feeling extraordinary? Are they qualities that you deem positive, negative, or somewhere in between? Do they seem to reveal themselves more now than in previous eras of your life, or were they more prominent before? What makes your version of that quality so unique? Have you had different characteristics that took turns setting you apart along your journey, or has it been just one or two core traits that have sustained? Do you appreciate your unique traits, or do you wish for others? Would you rather blend in more? Generally speaking, do you feel pretty well understood by the people in your life? Do you wish to be more understood? How much work would that take on your end? More than you want to do? Is it nice to have a little something just for yourself? How clearly and deeply do you think you understand the people in your life? Better than they understand you? What makes you think so? Would you guess that most people feel ordinary or extraordinary? If it is the latter, how many are willing to claim it out loud and celebrate their uniqueness? Should we do better at encouraging that? Do you celebrate your unique traits? Leave me a reply and let me know: What’s the difference between you and everybody else?  

Shine on,

William

P.S. If today’s letter made you look differently at yourself, please pass it on. Tell your loved ones that you appreciate their unique magic. Blessed be.

My Fellow Americans: A Patriotic Challenge for You

DSC_0646“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” –John F. Kennedy

Hello friend,

Happy Independence Day! This is one of my favorite holidays, because, at least where I spend it, there is a nostalgic, America-in-a-simpler-time kind of feel. It feels wholesome and good, the way I want to feel about my country and my countrymen.

It is a crazy time that we are living in. Bombs are going off seemingly all around us. People are killing each other in the name of God and country. Politicians running for our highest offices are trying to provoke fear and hatred (which will, of course, lead to more bombs and more fear). There is an atmosphere of “us” versus “them,” and you can decide on the Flavor Of The Day for who the “them” is going to be: Muslims, the police, Black Lives Matter, the government, the Christian Coalition, women, immigrants, Democrats, Mexico, the media, China, the LGBTQ community, refugees, Republicans, you name it. The list goes on and on. Who can I blame for my troubles? Who should I fear? Who is definitely NOT me? Simply open your eyes and ears—to Facebook, Fox News, Twitter, or your local watering hole—and you will be told any number of answers to these questions.

There are all kinds of “them” out there, very few of “us.” At least that is what we are told. It can feel kind of scary, I admit. Kind of isolating. Like you just want to huddle together with your little “us” and live your life, however small it has become from all of this antagonism and fear-mongering. I get it.

But I don’t believe that is what “America,” the concept, is all about. And I don’t believe that smallness—that scared, angry smallness—is befitting of We, The People of this amazing country.

So, on this week of celebration of our country, in this age of fear, hate, and isolation, I have a challenge for you.

My fellow Americans, I challenge you to be bigger.

I challenge you to rise above the characters on the TV news and the snarky memes on Facebook and the politics and the racism and the xenophobia. I challenge you to see those things for what they are when you meet them (which you will do many times per day), and then rise above them.

Stand up to people when it’s necessary. Call out bigotry and narrow-mindedness when you can. Do not be silent on issues that really matter. But don’t dirty yourself in the process. Offer your insights with grace. Let people know that you respectfully disagree or that what they are saying offends you. That can be done with kindness and without anger, no matter how disgusted you may feel in the moment. Rise above it.

Seek first to understand people. Before you rush to judgment based on someone’s appearance or ancestry or personal history, try to find out where they are really coming from. What is in their heart? What matters to them? How are they like you?

Give people the benefit of the doubt. You have no idea what burdens any other person carries. You don’t know whose mother just died, who just lost their job, who just got the results of their biopsy, and whose marriage is falling apart. You just don’t know. So give people a break. Let it go. Rise.

Find common ground. This has been a tough one during this election cycle. Republicans are commanded to simply disagree with whatever the Democrats say, and vice versa. Both sides are suffering for it, as are the rest of the people who don’t want to be stuck on one side or the other. But it is not just a political thing. It is a religious thing. It’s a global thing. And it’s a neighborhood thing. We are all—and I mean all—so much more alike than we are different. Seeking out the ways we are alike humanizes each other. It makes everyone less scary, too. Choose that.

Seemingly on the flipside of finding our sameness, try to recognize that each person is different, even members of groups that have big names, like Muslim, Mexican, and Republican. Uncover the nuances that make each person unique. Don’t let a politician define for you how a Muslim acts. Or a Mexican. Or a Republican. Open yourself to the richness of the tapestry woven into each group, even if others want you to believe it is just one thread, one color. Then you won’t be surprised when you meet that Mexican Muslim Republican who lives down the street!

No matter how much you educate yourself, try to remember how much you don’t know. Let that keep you humble. And let it keep you ever searching for more knowledge and a greater understanding. Grow.

Dare to be yourself. Understand what lights you up and do more of it. Speak your Truth (respectfully, of course). If that means you don’t fit neatly into a box or a political party, great! Whatever you do, let it come from your heart. It sets a wonderful example.

Be the one who reaches out, who lifts another up. There are so many people who need help. A job. Advice. Money. Encouragement. Food. A warm smile. A place to stay. Someone to sit by. An acknowledgment of their worth. You have the power to give something. Find what it is and give it.

Expand your circle. Look more strangers in the eye. Look for ways to connect with people who have different life experiences than you. Allow those connections to help you to better empathize. Expand.

In the end, my fellow Americans, I suppose my challenge to you can be boiled down to this: Choose to act from Love rather than from Fear.

 Trust me, if you operate from a place of Love rather from Fear, you will instantly find yourself living bigger. Your surroundings will look completely different to you. Opportunities to learn, grow, and give will appear everywhere you look. Interactions with people who are different than you will excite you rather than scare or aggravate you. You will begin to find similarities where once you found only differences. At last, you may even come to understand the truth in the phrase, “When you see nothing but yourself wherever you look, you peer through the eyes of God.”

I challenge you to get there. And I believe you can. Believe me, I am working on these challenges myself. I see the beauty of Life increase with each step I take in the right direction. It gives me hope.

Hope for myself. Hope for you. Hope for us all.

I feel like our country needs that right now. It needs a whole bunch of people taking steps in the direction of Love. It needs a whole bunch of people to be bigger than we have been. Our future depends on it. It depends on you. I believe you are ready to step up to the challenge.

How about you? Do you accept my challenge? Open up your journal and explore the ways that you can—right now—begin to live a bigger life, a life based more in Love and less in Fear. Perhaps the process begins by identifying the times in your life when you operate out of Fear. Which people—either individuals or groups—seem to draw that out of you? Are you able to articulate what it feels like when you operate that way? What is it about those people that triggers you? What makes you act small? What purpose does it serve for you? Do you feel better or worse because of it? Does looking down on some person or group—or hating them, or badmouthing them, or blaming them for your problems—make you feel stronger? Is it energy well spent? When was the last time you really got to know someone from a different walk of life than you? How did it benefit you? When was the last time you really helped someone who needed it? Do you make a habit of it? How does it make you feel when you help someone improve upon their existence? Do you find it is usually worth your effort? How good are you at maintaining a level of class and grace when you are strongly disagreeing with someone? What triggers you to sink to a level you later regret? How diverse is your circle? Are you willing to try to broaden it? How will you start? On a scale of one to ten, how compassionate are you? How well do you empathize with others? How well do you understand your own privilege? How humble are you? I think that if we all put in the effort to bump up our scores on each of those questions, we would be better for it. Better parents. Better sons and daughters. Better friends. Better neighbors. Better citizens. We could make a better America together. Leave me a reply and let me know: Will you take my challenge with me?

 Be bigger today,

William

P.S. If you believe the challenge is worthwhile, pass it on. Let us rise as one!

Open Season on the Voiceless: In Search of Compassion in the Age of Disrespect

DSC_0645“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” –Mohandas Gandhi

Hello friend,

My feathers are ruffled this week. I am stirred up. Anger, shame, envy, and simple hurt feelings are forming a combustible mix in my heart. They have been building up lately as I watch more and more of the political coverage on CNN, but what really tripped my storm this week was a simple Facebook post by a friend. It began with the type of snarky meme that I am becoming so accustomed to seeing—this time it was a baby shooting us the skunk-eye with the saying, “Why the heck do I have to press 1 for English? Did America Move?But instead of being accompanied by her commenting something like “Truthor “So sick of this! or some other diatribe against immigrants, my friend went the exact opposite direction. She blasted the people who post this type of meme for their perpetuation of hate and negativity, and implored us to move beyond the hate with some tolerance. She made great points, challenged the readers, and was super-passionate (her flair for the F-bomb is something I can only aspire to!).

“Yes!!!was all I could think to write in the Comments section, because it was exactly what came out of my mouth as I was reading it. Yes Yes YES!!! I was charged up. So many different emotions were swirling. For one, I was really proud of her, specifically for standing up to the ignorance and negativity that is so especially prevalent on the web and Facebook. I was also simply excited that someone was saying something, especially something with so much spirit and intelligence behind it. That also made be extremely envious of her for having the guts to do it. She said something I should have said any number of times when I read mean-spirited and ignorant posts, and I wished it was me with the guts. That made me ashamed of myself, especially as I am keenly aware of my privileged position as a White, heterosexual, middle-class male in America. I have a voice in this society that I didn’t do anything to earn. Nobody stood in the way of me putting my voice out there, and all of the characteristics I just mentioned automatically lend some credence to my opinions that people without those characteristics are denied. They are the voiceless.

I see all of these memes on Facebook—about welfare recipients, Muslims, immigrants and others whose first language is not English, and on and on—that are extremely mean-spirited and narrow-minded. And I understand that some people who create or share these things are trying to be funny—hey, my own humor is also quite sarcastic—but the clever factor in these pieces is far outweighed by the disrespect and complete absence of compassion. They perpetuate so many hateful and factually incorrect stereotypes. And they are EVERYWHERE!

There is a wave of insensitivity sweeping over us. It has become perfectly acceptable to bash anyone and everyone at any time. Perhaps it is the Internet age, where any nutjob—perhaps I am one of them—can get their opinion out to the world, and negativity draws more attention than positivity. But it is not just in crazy, underground blogs. It is in the mainstream media, and no one is safe from it. The Pope is sweeping America this week, mostly drawing positive reviews for the way he seems to galvanize support even while challenging people on both sides of the political spectrum. And yet, there I was watching CNN a few nights ago after stirring speeches to Congress and at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and the woman representing the Tea Party was completely slamming him in the most petty and mean-spirited tone. Look at the level of disrespect shown to President Obama that goes way beyond simply disagreeing with him; it is off the charts! It is as though we have lost control of our manners. The old, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all,has been replaced by, “If all you have are nice things to say, save your breath! Negativity leads. If you can make your negativity “funny” and add a photo to it, your ideas can reach a lot of people in a short time. Even the Pope and the President aren’t immune to the onslaught of disrespect and disdain. Nothing is sacred.

But the Pope and the President are big boys. They both have lots of privilege and lots of protection. They can handle a skewering on social media, no matter how classless the attacks. They have a loud, public voice to respond. On the contrary, the other groups I mentioned—Muslims, immigrants, welfare recipients—have no accepted voice in this country, no way to inform the conversation. So, they are easy targets for disrespect and inhumane treatment. Bullies pick on the kids who can’t fight back. Unfortunately, it seems we are becoming a society of bullies.

I look at the astounding level of animosity toward Muslims as an example of this bullying. Even though there are millions of Muslims in America—almost all of them peace-loving, hard-working, and tolerant, by the way—they are a voiceless group right now. And because of that lack of a voice, they are being demonized and disrespected at an alarming level. Yesterday I saw a couple of my Facebook “friends” share an anti-Muslim meme, and all of them, I am quite sure, neither know any Muslims nor know anything about the central tenets of mainstream Islam.

I said to my wife the other day, “Muslim is the new Black. I was serious. There was a time not long ago—and stretching back to this country’s beginnings—when you could write or say anything you wanted to say about Black people without fear of backlash. Public figures could call them names and tell racist jokes and chastise them, and nothing would come of it. Black people had no voice. They do now. Sure, all sorts of awful things still happen to them on a daily basis in more covert ways, but a shift has been made in our society. What was once socially acceptable when it comes to Black people in America is no longer. But Muslims? Not at all. You can still say whatever you want without fear of reproach. The meme I mentioned above joked that we have been at peace with Japan since we dropped atomic bombs on them, concluding with, “IT’S TIME WE MADE PEACE WITH ISLAM (you can tell the high intellect of the creator of this one, as it makes perfect sense that we can bomb a religion).

This kind of bigotry and absence of compassion is on display on my nightly peek at the Presidential candidates on CNN. Ben Carson tells us boldly that a Muslim should not be President. Donald Trump fails to correct a man at Trump’s own rally who says that the problem with America is Muslims. These are the two leaders in the race for the Republican nomination right now. Leaders.

Trump says he doesn’t have time to be politically correct. The poll numbers show that a lot of people love that philosophy. Unfortunately, too many are taking that as a license to act like bigots. They are checking their compassion and decency at the door and attacking every voiceless group that comes into their ever-narrowing minds. It is open season. It really saddens me. It frightens me, too.

With all that we know and all that we, as Americans, have been privileged to claim as our own as part of our residence in this great land, how dare we betray our gifts and turn our backs on our responsibility to be a positive example to the rest of the world? We have an amazing amount of privilege. If any of these characteristics describe you—White, American, Christian, male, middle or upper class, employed, English-speaking, heterosexual, healthy—then you have power in this society and a great advantage over many others. It is an advantage that you probably did little or nothing to earn. When we don’t acknowledge our privilege–and especially when we don’t see it as something we didn’t earn—we tend to lack empathy and compassion. Instead of seeing ourselves in the eyes of others, we see our differences. We build walls instead of bridges between us. It becomes easier to dehumanize “them” because they are not “us”. They are different, and as long as we have the power to define the terms, they get defined as less than us. Not as good. Not as human. Not as deserving of respect and compassion. There are very few things in the world as damaging as the absence of empathy and compassion. It saddens me to think we are living in that absence.

When I saw my friend’s post on Facebook with the offensive meme, it triggered that sadness in me. Her passionate response, on the other hand, triggered my belief that we can do better. That excited me. As the guy who is always striving to live his best life and help the world do the same, it made me envious of her for putting herself out there, knowing that she has a powerful voice and could use it for good. It also made me ashamed of myself for not squashing so many other negative and pitiless messages that I have seen and heard. After all, I have a voice. It is to be used. It is to be heard. I must take responsibility for my privilege and use it to not only share my own message of gratitude, positivity, and self-knowledge, but also to give a voice to the voiceless. To make sure they are represented, not misrepresented; that they are respected; and that they are seen as part of the universal “us”, not “them”. I can do that.

How about you? What kinds of messages are you sending with your voice? Open up your journal and think about what role you play in this drama. I mentioned Muslims, immigrants, and welfare recipients; what other groups are out there that catch a lot of negativity and seem to have very little voice to defend themselves with? Go through my list and yours, and with each group, ask yourself what your impression of them is and how that dictates your interactions and your judgments. Are you being fair? Why not? What is it about certain groups that make you separate them into “them” versus “us”? Is it appearance? Religion? Economic class? Who comes to mind when you think about public figures—whether politicians or talk show hosts or religious leaders or celebrities—who deliver a message that really speaks to your heart and mind? What is it about that person’s message that appeals to you? Is it more inclusive or divisive? More positive or negative? How often do you see Facebook posts or shares that run counter to everything you stand for? Do you just fail to “like” it, or do you comment on it or unfriend that person? How do you feel about your track record for standing up for what you believe in, even in the face of hostility? Do you engage in political or social justice issues when you are online? If I were to look at your posts, shares, comments, and likes, how compassionate and positive would I find your message to be? Are you doing enough to fill the world—even just the Internet world—with examples of empathy and inclusion? Do you protect the voiceless, or do you tend to do the bullying? Are you proud of your message? Leave me a reply and let me know: What is your voice calling for?  

Be the change,

William

Privilege & The Eyes of God

IMG_1072“When you see nothing but you wherever you look, you peer through the eyes of God.”

Hello friend,

I have never been one for keeping up on the news of the day. I don’t watch much television, and when I do, I really don’t want to hear about crime and death. I could certainly be accused of burying my head in the sand and ignoring certain things. It is not as though I don’t know bad things are happening; I just don’t like to dwell on them too much. I want to pick and choose my spots, not be flooded with it every day. I am grateful for the privilege of not having to deal with such constant negativity.

There are times, though, when either I come up for air after one of my mental hibernations to research a tough issue, or a story becomes so big that I can’t even hide from it with my head in the sand. The recent tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri and its aftermath seems to be one of those stories. While I haven’t followed it closely and certainly don’t claim to know all the facts, I think I know enough that it has seeped into my soul and really saddened me. Of course the death of Michael Brown is horrible in its own right, but what has been most on my mind is the way Black people in that area have been mistreated and disrespected by the White people—especially in positions of power (e.g., the police force)—since the beginning of the town itself. The message “Black lives don’t matter” seems to echo loudly from Ferguson. Unfortunately, it is not the only town in America sending that message.

I have lately been reading some articles and papers about being an ally to members of disadvantaged groups, whether that be a racial or ethnic minority, members of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender (LGBT) community, non-Christians, poor people, women, the mentally or physically handicapped, overweight people, and many more. I have tried to become increasingly aware of how wildly privileged I am as a White, straight, able-bodied, middle-class, American male, and how easy it can be to ignore the unearned advantages I have over others not in my categories (this blissful ignorance of my privilege is, of course, just one of the privileges of my station—scary how that works!).

With all of these thoughts in my head lately, I have still been a bit unclear where my voice is, what my role needs to look like. I went to bed last night wondering fruitlessly about that. When I woke up this morning, I turned to what has become my version of “reading the news.” Its name is Facebook. Yes, I count on those articles and videos that people share to keep myself marginally informed. There I found an article called “5 Things You Should Never Do (or Say) to a Little Person”, which featured a 22-year-old man who lives in New York City and the awful treatment he receives on a daily basis just going about his normal business as a dwarf/little person. He made a six-minute documentary called “Don’t Look Down on Me” (I highly encourage you to look it up), in which he wore a hidden camera to detail his experiences. It made me very sad to watch.

As the film came to a close and the young man’s cold reality had dug out an aching hole in my heart, his honest voice came over the images:

“I don’t want to TELL anyone what to do or what to think or how to feel, but instead what I’ll do is I’ll ASK. I’ll ASK that the next time you see someone who is different than you, think about what their day might be like. Think about all of the events of their life leading up to that point. Then think about their day, and think about what part of their day do you want to be?”

It hit me like a ton of bricks. Stopped me dead in my tracks. His question seemed directed right at me. Its probing depth is absolutely brilliant, and my daily response to it could be the only thing I might do to make my heart feel whole. It is an obvious question that must be addressed by people of privilege, but the lesson is a universal one. What part of someone’s day do you want to be?

It is so easy to be mean, even easier to be insensitive. But gosh, when you look at all of the travails that we have put so many people of the world through—see the seemingly endless list of disadvantaged groups I mentioned above—don’t you think we could all make the effort to do better, to show up for one another just because each one of us MATTERS?

As a White, heterosexual, middle class, able-bodied male, the world shows up for me every day; it rolls the red carpet out. It is time for me to not only become more aware of how much easier and better it is for me than for others, but also for me to do what I can—every day and in every interaction—to share with others the privileges I get for free. It is more than that, though. It is not just about not harassing, not looking down upon, not being insensitive. It is NOT about inaction nor about ignoring others and just “letting them live.” It is not about neutral.

It is up to all of us—but especially those of us with privilege—to become a positive part of everyone else’s day. In gestures big and small, interpersonal and political. It is time to stir the compassion from our souls, to look into the other’s eye and see ourselves. When we do that, we can begin to act from Love. When we act from Love, we find ways to be the positive part of someone’s day. We help them rise rather than tear them down. We joke with them, not about them. We share with them rather than horde for ourselves. We see them. We hear them. We seek to understand their experience of the world. We sympathize with them, and we do our best to empathize as well. We know them to be—just like ourselves—valuable simply because they were gifted life on Earth and are thus of Divine heritage. We are family.

So, the next time I see someone who looks or acts different from me, I am going to do my best to remember that Truth. I will ask myself, “What part of their day do I want to be?” Armed with that Truth—that they are me and we are One—and emboldened by my multi-layered privilege, I will answer with certainty, “The most LOVING part!” 

If I can walk that walk of Love every day—if I can “see through the eyes of God” and live accordingly—I can make change. Now just imagine if we could all show up for each other and live this way. We could make serious change! Positive, world-shaking change. So, what do you say: Wanna take a walk with me??? 

How about you? How can you leverage your privilege to make the world better for everyone? Open up your journal and examine your place in the world. In which of your many statuses are you privileged? On a day-to-day basis, are you aware of that privilege—most people are not, so don’t feel bad admitting it—and how it affects your interactions? Where do you feel it the most? Now look at the other side of the coin. Which of your statuses are definitely NOT privileged? What are some examples of how that plays out in your daily life? How does it feel to be treated that way? Does lack of privilege in one area give you more empathy toward people who are mistreated due to their lack of privilege in another area (e.g., does being Black make you more likely to feel the pain of someone who is overweight or transgendered?)? Are we all inherently valuable? If so, why don’t we treat each other that way? More specifically, why are Black lives in Ferguson (and so many other places) not valued the way White lives are? Why do we slip so quickly and so badly when it comes to our treatment of people who are different from us? Is it evolutionary, in our genes? Do you think that if we believed there was enough of everything to go around—love, opportunity, money, etc.—that we would not fight so desperately to keep our spot in the pecking order? Do you think you can do better? Can you show up for EVERYONE, no matter how unpopular that might make you with your own group? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you ready to see through the eyes of God?

Be a light today,

William

Love & Privilege

DSC_0247Hello friend,

I just had a conversation with an old, dear friend, during which he shared the wonderful news that he had fallen in love.  There is very little in life that I enjoy more than talking with someone newly in love.  It is that exuberance, that giddiness, that total intoxication with life and all of its new possibilities.  The heart feels as though it could burst open with joy, and you want to shout about it from the rooftops for all the world to share in.  The enthusiasm is infectious to be around.  I appreciate it all the more knowing how rare it is.  For most of us, we are blessed with this crazy, blissful, intoxicated, falling-in-love feeling only once or twice in our lives.  I am grateful to have had my turn to shout and shine, and now I enjoy sharing in the new love stories of my friends and family.  Love is to be shared, and there is no more thrilling time to share your love story than when you are in that early, passion-filled phase.

So, why did I even have to ask my friend if he had told anyone else his exciting news yet?  Why did he tell me that, even though it has been a couple of months, that I am the first one he shared this amazing, soul-stirring life event with?  Why did we have to strategize about the best way to share this great love story with his family, who have always tried to set him up or get him into online dating to find “the one”?   With all of the happiness he was feeling, why no rooftop shouting?  Because he fell in love with a man.

We finished the conversation with me telling him how happy I am for him and urging him to enjoy the ride, reminding him how rare and breathtaking these moments are in our lifetime.  I was thrilled for him and proud of him at the same time.  But as I processed it more and more—of course, with the great help of my journal—I recognized an air of sadness about me surrounding our conversation.  The more I wrote and thought about what might be the source of my sadness, the more I kept circling back to the idea of privilege, in this case heterosexual privilege.

Privilege is an enormous, can-of-worms kind of issue when it comes to conversations around social justice.  Frankly, it makes most of us who are privileged feel very uncomfortable and defensive, as we generally live in denial of the existence of privilege.  Ironically, that very denial is one of the privileges of being privileged.   Let me explain.

Privilege can probably best be defined with examples.  As a White person, I can walk through a store without being followed by clerks.  I can move to a neighborhood almost anywhere in this country and expect people to be neutral or pleasant to me.  I can answer a question in a class and never be considered the voice of my race.  When I read a history book or watch a television show, I can be sure that my race is well-represented.  If I happen to swear or act badly in public, I don’t think people are going to attribute my behavior to the poor morality of my entire race.  And I have the privilege of not being aware of these things.

As a man, I have the privilege of having both a career and kids without people thinking I am selfish for not staying at home with the kids.  If I choose to not have kids, my masculinity won’t be called into question.  If I drive poorly or make bad financial decisions, people won’t attribute that to my sex.  I can sleep with a lot of women without serious social disapproval or name-calling.  My decision-making ability will not be questioned based on what time of the month it is.  Very little time and expense are expected of me when it comes to personal grooming.  And I have the privilege of not being aware of these things.

As a heterosexual, I have the privilege of being open about my sexual orientation without worrying about my job.  My masculinity isn’t questioned, and nobody calls me straight in a mean way.  People don’t ask me why I chose to be heterosexual or why and how I came to be open about it.  I can be sure that my schoolbooks have examples of other heterosexuals.  I never leave a gathering feeling outnumbered or isolated.  I am not defined by my sexuality, and I can go for long periods without anyone calling me straight.  I can be pretty sure that the people I meet and know will be comfortable with my sexuality.  I have no fear of the ramifications of my family finding out about my heterosexuality.  And I have the privilege of not being aware of these things.

But I am becoming aware of these things as I write them, and I am understanding why I am a little sad after hearing my friend’s wonderful news.  Not at all sad that he is in a relationship with a man—Love is Love, and my Maker is nothing if not a being of pure Love—but sad because we had to talk about how to tell his family about what should be a shout-it-out, sing-it-out life event like falling in love.  Sad that he will have to think about all of the aforementioned privileges and wonder why, simply because the love he found had one chromosome different than the one we expected him to find, he has to live on the other side of those privileges.  In being his most authentic self and being open to love however it showed up—what should be a totally liberating life event and admired by all—he is forced to carry around our societal baggage like a yoke around his neck.  That is a heavy load to carry simply for living his Truth.

My hope is to do my part to make his load lighter in whatever way I can.  My wife is a Black woman; that is a mighty load, too.  It is daily work to try to lighten her load as well, whether that is just being a sounding board for the offenses of the day, or allowing her to educate me so that I can pass it on to you (she provided the examples of privilege I mentioned—they hit close to home in my house).  I feel compelled to make whatever changes I can in my little sphere of influence, not to erase my own privilege but to spread that privilege to all.

So, my challenge to you today is to get out your instrument of choice—journal, laptop, scrap paper, Comments box—and write about your privileges.  Think deeply about this, because chances are, you haven’t before.  And go beyond the categories I mentioned; add religion, socioeconomic class, and anything else you can think of.  Explore the many ways in which you are privileged, and try to imagine being on the flip-side of that privilege.  Feel that pain of injustice and the full weight of society’s ignorance.  Next, think about your own sphere of influence.  Write down a few ways that you can do your part to make your little corner of the world more enlightened, more loving, more just.  It may seem like too big a task, but remember, it all starts within you.  If you have read this far, you are already well on your way.  If you take me up on my challenge, I know that change will be made.  I believe in you.

Keep thinking & keep writing,

William