After the twin towers fell 13 years ago, my then 13 year old daughter struggled to understand the world she was growing into. Ultimately she wrote a poem. That poem began with a sense of helplessness:
I do not hold in my hand the power to change what happened on September 11. I cannot turn back the hands of time, and stop the towers from falling, or the people from dying. I cannot stop destruction, hatred, loss,
It ended though with hope. The final stanza read as follows:
Some people might say I don’t have the power to do anything, but they are wrong. I hold in my hand the power to make a difference. I can love when others hate. I can lend a helping hand when it is needed. Even a small gesture can mean a lot to another. I have the power to make a difference, and I hold this power in my hands, heart and mind.
And she was right. We each have the power to fight hate, often in seemingly small ways, but ones that over time can have a collective impact. As individuals we can work to improve our skills for listening, understanding, and productive dialogue. As citizens we can recognize that too much partisanship is poisonous, and set boundaries both for ourselves and for our elected officials. When we see patterns of hate developing in our private and public communications, we can act to disrupt those and instead build narratives that strengthen our sense of community. By working together to understand our diverse experiences and perspectives, we can make wiser decisions.
Yes this is idealistic. We could instead give in to cynicism and despair, allowing the spores of injustice and hate to grow. Or we can hold onto our faith that the world can be a better place, and do what we can. It is not impossible for individuals and even nations to change, even though progress may be slow.
So persevere. Speak-up with courage and compassion, find and encourage others who seek a more peaceful world, forgive where you can, and extend a welcoming hand to those who are different from you. Dialogue can make a difference and we urge you to build dialogues where-ever you can.