More people this year than any other I can recall are eager to put 2016 behind them, saying it was a terrible year. Even more troubling, many are not looking forward to 2017 with the same kind of optimism about a fresh start that the clean slate of a new year usually invites.
Most every American was eagerly awaiting the end of what felt like the longest, nastiest, and most polarizing presidential campaign in history. Regardless of how you hoped the election would turn out, chances are you were hoping the nation could move forward in a positive direction and begin healing.
That didn’t happen. People took to the streets in protest. Violence and vitriol have erupted in some communities – even within some families. Thus the sense of dread and fear of what the New Year has in store for us. But rather than just sit on the sidelines as helpless observers, I’d like to suggest that we change “That didn’t happen” to “That hasn’t happened yet”. If we can do something to inject some positivity into our own thoughts, perhaps we can then take positive action to help bring about the affirmative change we wish to see.
One of the reasons I love strategic planning so much is that, by its very nature, it is a forward-looking, positive process. When done right, it both affirms our purpose and forces us to define the results we are seeking so we can develop plans that optimize our chances of achieving them. Creating a vision of what we hope to achieve, by definition, focuses us on the future we wish to create so we can take steps to make it happen.
What better time to look forward to what we wish to accomplish than this dark period in our history that has revealed deeper discord than many of us knew existed?
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said,
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that.”
These have been some dark days, indeed. Deep philosophical divides between and among Americans have been revealed throughout the election season. Think what you will about our next president, he would never have been elected had millions of people not felt so disaffected. The divisiveness has been building for a very long time and is not likely to go away anytime soon. Even as the next administration gears up to enter the White House ready to dismantle programs and policies that many of us hold dear, we are not entirely powerless to contribute in a positive way to achieving the worthy goals they were intended to address.
It is up to us to do whatever we can to light the darkness. So what are some things we might all be able to do to help create an America where every citizen feels welcome, safe and cared for? Here are just a few ideas:
- Donate your time, expertise and/or money to charitable causes that are important to you. My family talks about the issues we most want to contribute to every year and selects one or more organizations to support. This year, much of the conversation focused on services the new administration is likely to cut and our selections are intended to help fill that void.
- Participate in community events intended to promote diversity and inclusion, recognizing the value of all human lives.
- Contact your elected officials and tell them to support legislation, policies and organizations you care about. Many in elected office say that a brief phone call by their constituents can be especially influential in shaping their views on important issues.
- Band with other like-minded souls, or act on your own, to create programs that address a vital need in your community. Charity begins at home.
- Practice random acts of kindness.
These are a few thoughts of how each of us can begin to act, right now, to start turning the tide toward a more positive 2017. I’m holding clear in my mind a vision of a united country where we care for and about one another and take steps to show that concern in our daily lives, speech, and acts of loving kindness.
If everyone can focus on a positive vision of the country we want to live in and take one small step toward creating that reality, we could achieve some great movement in the right direction. If even half of the United States’ more than 300 million inhabitants held up a single light, through word or deed, imagine how much darkness we could illuminate. Maybe then we can truly begin to heal the nation’s wounds and create a brighter future.