Up All Knight is a series that celebrates the excellent, breathtaking, exciting, wonderful things in our world. It is about changing perspectives. (To read the opening installment, click here!) Instead of dwelling on the things we hate that bring us down, it is a chance to find things to bring some levity and joy and encouragement. If you have any suggestions that our resident UCF Knight David Staples can tackle, feel free to email him at UpAllKnight_SL@icloud.com. Join us on this journey up!
So that was an interesting couple of weeks.
Let my begin by apologizing for missing my installment last week. I intended to write it, but I just couldn’t bring myself to. Last Friday – November 4 – was my mom’s birthday. She would have been 71. But she passed away on June 29 from cancer. Frankly, the week leading up to November 4 was very tough. So the Up All Knight juggernaut had to take a knee for that cycle. However, the themes that I hoped to cover in that article will still be laced throughout this one.
What’s next? Ah, yes, the Cubs. On the heels of my podcast with Arthur Ahn, I actually DID watch several of the World Series games and enjoyed myself immensely. And I was fortunate enough to actually watch the vast majority of Game 7. If baseball was always like THAT, I could definitely get on board quickly. It was like a chess match between the managers. Hollywood could not have come up with a better storyline than what played out in Game 7. Both of my sons also expressed some interest in the postseason action. We shall see if the momentum of the series combined with being in town for a whole season of baseball goodness will create some fans.
Hmmm, anything else happen since our last visit? Halloween… The Fifth of November… The November SAT offering… Oh yeah, I remember now.
After eighteen months suffering through the raging infection known as Presidential campaigning, Americans were finally able to pop the massive pimple of freedom on November 8 and elect the most hated President in history. Seriously, either way the vote came out, the winner would be the biggest loser ever. I’ve been actively cognizant of elections since 1980 and have never seen such unmitigated vitriol sprayed about. Even if Obama was detested by a large chunk of America, it wasn’t like the other side actually loathed McCain or Romney. This election featured two of the most hated people on Earth. The lead up to this momentous event was actually what led to me starting this series! I am friends with a kaleidoscope of people on social media. I have extremely conservative Christians from my years in ministry, extremely liberal agnostics from my time at Apple and educational institutions, a smattering of libertarians peppered throughout the mix, and a whole lot of people who aren’t sure where they stand in the modern political scene. I knew that no matter what happened November 8, I would awake to an angry group of people, a gloating group of people, and a whole lot of people who weren’t sure where they stood in the modern political scene. And I was right. November 9 didn’t bring the relief I had hoped from the lancing of the election boil. Instead, the infection appears to have cause major damage throughout our nation’s body. (Okay, enough of that metaphor. I’m getting a little nauseated.)
The question I asked myself when I got up on November 9 was, “Now what?” I don’t care if you voted for Trump, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or Fudd, you have to acknowledge that our country is very very very divided right now. There is the cultural division of cities versus rural areas – evidenced by those maps that CNN kept throwing up there with huge swathes of red with tiny blisters of blue (sorry, that was the last one). [Oh, one aside, can we give it up for CNN? Their technology was fascinating to watch. I was very impressed by John King’s masterful use of the touchscreen and the computer models. I’m not being sarcastic. If election coverage was always like THAT, I could definitely get on board quickly.] There is the moral/ethical division, the racial division, the economic division, the compassion division. Half of the voting public did NOT want our President. When you throw in the mammoth number of people who didn’t even vote because they couldn’t chose among the stellar candidates, up to 2/3 of the country did NOT want our President. And that number would be the same if Clinton had won. This isn’t good. If something isn’t done, things are going to get worse and worse.
Since my goal is to have a different perspective on things, I decided to apply that starting with November 9. First, I woke my kids up and told them that Trump won. Being impressionable young children, they had heard lots of terrifying things about Trump from classmates, teachers, the television, the debates. Living in Texas, they were worried about the wall that was going to be built now. Having friends of all colors and backgrounds, they were concerned about what would happen to those kids and their families. I told them this: “God is still God. He wasn’t surprised by this outcome. What we are going to do is pray that Trump will be the best President the US has ever had – just like I prayed that for Obama and Bush and Clinton and the other Bush and Reagan. He is the President now and our job is to pray for him.” Then I tried to put their fears to rest. After that, I went and worked the Book Fair at my youngest son’s school.
That is where I had an epiphany. It actually reinforced something that had been rattled around in my skull for a couple of weeks. (Ooooo, I bet this is about to come full circle to that thing I was talking about earlier with last week’s unwritten article.) One of the first things I did at Book Fair was escort a few kindergarteners back to their class to recover their forgotten Book Fair money. We live in Fort Bend County, Texas – the most ethnically diverse county in the USofA. The students at this school are a rainbow of backgrounds, beliefs, skin pigmentations. The three young men I walked back to class were examples of that: black, Indian, Asian. As we were walking, one little boy looked up at me and said, “Sometimes I cry because I miss my dad. He doesn’t live with us any more.” Then he went on to tell me about his “aunts” and “uncles” and how he just cries sometimes and doesn’t know why. This little kindergartner – carrying so much weight on his skinny shoulders. I didn’t ask him to spill his guts. I barely had talked to him. He didn’t look at me and see some big scary white dude. He saw a dad who cared enough about his kids to volunteer at Book Fair. And he just came unglued. I helped him remember where his money was and took them back.
You want to know what I was thinking at that point? It wasn’t about Trump v Clinton. It wasn’t about hate fueled speeches and angry mobs and furious voters. It was about this little boy and how his life has been shredded to pieces. Then I DID start thinking about the election. But I started thinking of those little faces in the library and wondering how many of them were scared because they were darker than others. Then I picked my kids up from school later and heard all three of them tell me they had friends in class who were scared they were going to be kicked out of the country. For the last eighteen months, the adults in America have acted like a bunch of brawling parents at a youth baseball game. They didn’t care what their tirades and ugliness did to each other. And they certainly didn’t think about what it was doing to those little ones watching and listening. Fear has been the language of the year. Fear is a powerful motivator – perhaps stronger than even love and hope. And while fear may motivate an adult to do something, it cripples a child.
What I am proposing to each and every one of you is to take a second and stop. I want you to stop your protesting, defending, arguing, whining, hiding and look at the other side. Don’t look at the adults, if you can’t see past their ideology. Look at their kids. I have said for a long time that it is much tougher to take some stances when you put a face on the belief. Take it one step farther than just looking at those kids. Now do something about it. Get out there and start making a difference. Whatever tumult I felt on Wednesday morning wasn’t able to stay rooted too long. I helped dozens of little kids find books. They came skipping into the library, clutching their money, and ran to the same books. Black, brown, white, purple skin, it didn’t matter. They ran to grab a Wimpy Kid or Ghosts or Pokemon Encyclopedia or Magic Puppy. I got to hear an autistic Asian boy singing as his teacher led him through the hallway toward the library. Weary teachers with rooms full of rambunctious children would smile when I came to get kids to come shop.
It is hard to focus too much on your own troubles when you are helping others. That was what I was going to say last week as well. Cancer sucks. It is a vicious murderer and thief. It robbed my kids and my nephew of their beloved Grammy – and me and my siblings of our precious mother. I am watching a high school friend in Texas – a 42 year old healthy mother of five – as she has just been diagnosed with breast cancer and started chemo. It is heartbreaking to see her buy the scarf to hide her soon-to-be bald head. I hate knowing that she is coming into Houston, not to visit friends, but to see doctors. I’ve heard it said that every person in America knows someone who has been victimized by cancer. Let’s do something about it. Get involved with the American Cancer Society or No Shave November or Movember or whatever other organization that you can find that is doing research to fight this disease.
Friday was Veterans Day. My dad was a Korean War Veteran. It was the thing I was the most proud of him about. I would look at his scarred hands and missing fingertips, his pockmarked neck, and know the sacrifice he made. I don’t care if you hate the military with every fiber of your being – the very fact you have the right to even do that was purchased with the life of some young kid you never knew. Give to a group like Wounded Warrior Project. Volunteer at your local VA Hospital – they always need people to help. Work at a homeless shelter, where a disturbing number of these veterans end up.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. They may be the happiest days of the year for you. The are also the hardest ones for people without money or hope. Suicide rates skyrocket. Poor families are crushed that they can’t give their kids the same joy other kids will experience. Buy toys for Toys For Tots, ring a bell for Salvation Army, adopt a family through a local school or church or radio station.
My point is that however crappy of a day you are having, someone out there is having a worse one. You may be completely devastated that Trump is our President. That feeling will pass at some point and life will return to normal. What about that coworker who is in the middle of a divorce? What about your neighbor who just had a child diagnosed with a terminal illness? What about that homeless family you just drove past on the way to Starbucks? Stop the raging and the whirlwind long enough to see the faces around you. Get out there and make a difference in their lives. I know that many people are so upset BECAUSE they are thinking about the people around them. We can all agree that the system is seriously flawed. We as individuals are going to have to change things. So keep on letting your anger over injustice burn, but direct it into action.
Want to up the difficulty factor? Don’t pick someone just like you – find someone on the “other side” and see what you can do to help them. It is very hard to stay so angry when you’re looking across a table at a child who is wearing the same shirt for the fifth straight day. It is hard to rant about free lunches at school when you sit next to a girl who wouldn’t eat all day if it weren’t for those meals. It isn’t so easy to label everyone who voted a certain way as racists and morons when you sit down with them and realize that many of them are scared and feel helpless and just looking for someone to stand up for them. The politicians are never going to bring healing to this country. The system we have in place HAS TO have division to succeed; its very existence is predicated on it. The healing is going to be done when we as Americans look at our fellow citizens and start building bridges, caring, serving, loving. Put a face on that person across the aisle. You may be surprised what you find.