This morning, I hugged and kissed my baby goodbye and watched her drive away, beginning her five-and-a-half hour trip and fourth semester of college. I told her all of the standard things a parent should say, “Don’t speed,” “Be careful and pay attention to the road,” “Make good choices,” “Study hard,” and “Have fun.”
As I watched her go, I thought about the other goings on of the day–those taking place across the bridge, as we say here on the Shore. Today, we do what our Founding Fathers intended for us to do–we welcome a new administration to lead our country. I thought about the implications of that transition and about how my daughter will be impacted by our country’s leadership and how it will impact her.
All three of my girls, though separated by a total of just five years, seem at times to be part of extremely different generations. They hold many of the same beliefs and support the same issues, but there are also many things about which they disagree. Family dinners at our house are often filled with discussions of politics and world affairs (that’s what happens when your father is a former politician himself, and the girls were raised amidst a political landscape). It’s always interesting to me to see on which side of political arguments my daughters fall. It’s even more interesting to see how they handle themselves in a discussion and even more a debate.
Ken and I did not raise girls who are afraid to speak out or stand up for their beliefs. We have always encouraged them to say what’s on their minds and to engage in civil discussion about even the hardest to talk about topics. It’s a skill that I believe is lost. I’ve written before about the lack of desire or confidence or perhaps knowledge to participate in civil discussions of topics with opposing views. It’s the greatest area where we as Americans have failed our children. All of the issues we face today–racism, sexism, lies, corruption, you name it–all of them could be fixed if we just made an effort to talk to other people, not argue, not fight, not become offended or angered, but simply have a discussion, even a debate, as rational human beings. I’m not saying it won’t be hard, that we wouldn’t have to work to overcome past injustices or to pave a better future, but we can’t do anything if we don’t do it together. There’s nothing wrong with disagreeing. There’s nothing wrong with seeing things from different perspectives. What is wrong is not working toward finding solutions.
On this day, heralded by so many as a new beginning, I am praying for change. I don’t mean change in presidents or change in parties or even change in how we vote for our leaders. I am praying for real change from the ground up, the kind of change that must begin at kitchen tables, by the poolside, at cocktail parties, on nights out with friends, and in classrooms. We need to see a change in how issues are discussed and debated. We need to see people of all ages making a concerted effort to talk and to listen and to see where other people are coming from. We need to be more tolerant and more accepting of those with views different from our own. We need to shed the mantra of, “Never discuss religion or politics” and engage with each other. We need to find compromises and ways to meet each other halfway. We need to stop with the labels and start seeing people for whom they are, recognizing and understanding why they believe what they believe. We need to stop TALKING about how one side is going to make things better and actually work together to find ways to MAKE THINGS BETTER (yes, Congress, that is addressed to you)!
After the last election, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, in a statement to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (“Coming Together as Faithful Citizens for the Common Good,” November 9, 2016) said, “Let us not see each other in the divisive light of Democrat or Republican or any other political party, but rather, let us see the face of Christ in our neighbors, especially the suffering or those with whom we may disagree.”
That is what I pray for. I pray that we can see each other as fellow human beings and respect each other and each other’s views. I pray that we can learn to discuss, to debate, and to work together to repair and rebuild our country. The problems we face today are not problems created over the past four years but over the past forty years. They were caused by a deepening crevice between the two parties, by those interested only in power and might, by those looking out for their own self-interests, by the lack of willingness to discuss compromise or see things from each other’s perspectives, and by the mistaken premise that one side always has to be right, ergo the other side always has to be wrong.
Please join me today in praying for our country, for its leaders, and for its citizens. Please pray that when the word tolerance is used, it is not one-sided or tongue in cheek. Please pray that those who do not see eye-to-eye can begin to see heart-to-heart. Please pray that all people learn how to discuss, how to debate, and how to work together to make the future United States a better place for all of us.
And begin practicing these things this very night within your own home, among your own family, around your own kitchen table. The world will be a better place only if every individual, every family, every politician, every person living today makes an effort to listen to each other and work together to solve our problems.
I close with a prayer from the great Catholic social worker Dorothy Day, a woman who could not be categorized as a Democrat or a Republican or a Libertarian or anything other than what she was – a Christian.
“What we would like to do is change the world – make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended for them to do….We can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing that we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as well as our friend.“
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).