You Can’t Be a Good Person by Doing Nothing

Lisbeth Essays, Life

American flag on museum wall


We are again at a “What do you say?” moment in America.

There are too many of them lately, and they keep coming.

When we were kids growing up in America, many of us wished to be great people, but we failed to fully comprehend that to be great, hard things would be asked of us, and difficult actions required, some at personal risk. But that is how life is.

And now we stand at another moment in history, one where we all will be judged by what we did and what we did not do. This has little to do with politics and everything to do with love.

You stand for hate or you stand against it.

There is no middle ground. There is no way to step aside now, sit this one out, cruise through the hard parts and come back in when the coast is clear and the sailing is easy. America is in danger right now, and that danger is from within, from the forces of hate within our own nation that threaten to tear us apart or move us forward. We get to decide.

We become a better people, a better nation, a better society … or we slide back.

I wish the answers were easy here. I wish the path was clear. But it’s not. Things are muddled and unclear and hazy and there’s so much shouting and anger and confusion. Welcome to combat in your own country.

But, before I paint too dire of a picture, remember many of us are safe and fed and well. Our nation has gone through rough times before and emerged. As Marianne Williamson likes to remind us, we had:

  • slavery … and abolition
  • no vote for women … and the women’s suffrage movement
  • laws against gays … and the marriage equality decision

But one day, years from now, when your grandkids ask you about these days, what will you say? What will you tell them about what you did when forces of hate rose in America?

I don’t have all the answers but I do what I can.  Today, I:

  • Used my voice on social media to educate and preach love.
  • Texted an African-American friend and told her I loved her.
  • Bought a couple of flashlights and American flags and told my teenage son we’re going to a “Stand With Charlottesville” rally tonight. I don’t usually go to rallies in person (because I can be more effective behind a keyboard — an odd but true fact in this world) but this time it seems important to go in person and literally shine my light.

They’re small actions, but somehow they feel important. Every single one of us who has an account on social media has a voice in our own circle of friends. You get to decide how to use it. I know some people will say things like:

  • “I don’t like to get political.”
  • “I don’t want to annoy my friends.”
  • “This could affect me professionally.”

I hear you. I guess I just see things a different way.

  • I think standing up for love and against hate is not a political statement. It’s a human statement. It’s an American statement.
  • I think talking about love won’t annoy my friends.
  • I think losing income from those who hate is an okay deal with me. I can earn money other ways, but I can never buy back my soul.

And one day, years from now, when I’m long gone from this Earth, and my grandkids ask what crazy old Granny did back in the dark days, there will be a reply they can be proud of. And my light will shine on. I hope yours is there with me.

Lisbeth Essays, Life

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