What America needs now is you

Between now and next November, we will all be hit with a barrage of differing opinions about the “one thing America needs.” I would like to remind us, however, that more than anything else, what America needs right now is you.

It’s not really about you individually, but the collective you, or more accurately, the collective “we.” There is only one president and 535 congressional representatives, but there are 325 million of us, and I still believe the driving force behind who we are as a nation is largely up to us. Policymakers set boundaries, pundits try to set the tone, but America will only be as great or as compassionate as its people. So, here are three things we can all do for next 17 months to make sure “We the People” are the real winners, regardless of who claims victory at the ballot box.

Understand the other

It’s a strange time to be alive. The world of social media, consumer-driven news, and hyper-targeted marketing ensure that I almost never have to deal with opinions that I disagree with. My social media feeds are targeted directly to me, and my menu of cable news channels stands ready to feed me political views tailored to my taste. I can block anyone on social media that I don’t want to hear from, and I can change the channel or scream “fake news” any time Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity start disagreeing with me. Forget about different opinions, in 2019, we are literally working with different sets of facts.

So why does it surprise us that we are quickly losing the ability to understand the other? And because we fear that which we don’t understand, our new normal can have dangerous consequences. If we are going to be the kind of nation that most of us want to live in, we’re going to have to learn to understand the other.

Jesus said it in the Sermon on the Mount, “you’ve been taught to love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I tell you to love your enemies and pray for those who try to harm you.” These are timely words. It’s time we replaced our fear with the genuine courage it takes to listen and understand.

Look out for the poor (or the poor in spirit)

“It’s a dog eat dog world; you have to get what’s yours.” This is not the world we want to live in, but it is – at least to some extent – the world we have to live in. Or is it?

In the ancient world, every time a new king would ascend to the throne, there would be a massacre. He would kill, not only the former king – but his entire family to ensure they would never challenge his position. Now we have elections, and in most cases, a smooth and relatively peaceful transition of power because we, as a people, decided we were tired of a massacre every time there was a new ruler.

Societies are made up of people. We can either be a society that runs over the poor, the weak and the marginalized, or we can be one that lifts them up. And it is up to us to make that choice. If we want to live in a society marked by the kind of things Jesus talked about – kindness, compassion and generosity – it’s up to us to infuse every area of our lives with his principles. Maybe it’ll take a while to catch on, some of us may not even live to see it, but don’t give up. The world needs you to live out God’s vision for a kinder, more compassionate society to the best of your ability, which brings me to No. 3.

Focus on what you can do

It’s a big world and every day I’m reminded of how small I really am. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anything I can do to really change things. Maybe there isn’t, but I do know that I can change things for one person. For this reason, I’ve committed myself to focusing more on what I can do and worrying less about what I can’t. The world doesn’t need another blogger or Twitter resister, or even another newspaper columnist. It needs people who believe God is still good and Jesus’ vision for the world is still possible. It needs people who are willing to infuse that vision into every area of their lives.

As I get older, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I may never really be that significant. It’s OK, though, because I know God is significant. I know love, kindness, generosity, and compassion are significant. And I believe that little, insignificant me, and little, insignificant you can give ourselves over to these significant things. I believe that in itself is pretty significant.

Jason Koon in an ordained minister who lives in Morganton.

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