Take a stance. Pick a side! What side of history do you want to be on? We can NOT agree to disagree on this topic. I’m sorry but if you were here or there or believe this or that we can not be friends. I unfriend you! If you don’t share this meme with 23 of your friends by 1:09 pm Jesus will pass your family and all you love to the wayside and you will be forced to watch middle aged women do TikToks until you submit your email and sign this petition. Right now everything seems, every topic feels, every issue demands us to draw a hard, firm, unmoving line – right now or before 1:09 this afternoon, obviously. Do you nod your head when you read what I have shouted from my keypad? Are we having a phone call or coffee about a big topic and never saying ‘hmmmmm, are you sure about this and like that and like this and uh’ (if you don’t know the song reference then consider yourself unfriended). Kidding, I’m kidding guys. Most days it seems that these are the ways people measure unity.
Unity makes me pause because it feels tricky. Slippery even. It’s something that sounds like an easy YES! Who isn’t for unity? When you get past the initial starry eyed thought of unity it’s difficult to grasp and even harder to really understand. Like anything else that feels too big to see the full picture I try to draw it in. Shrink it down. Look for it in my everydays and go from there. This helps me on multiple levels. It makes me feel more in control and less throw my hands up-y. It highlights opportunities and how I can affect change within the “too big” RIGHT NOW. TODAY.
So, I asked myself, when have I experienced unity? What did it feel like? Who was involved and why? What can I do in the next 30 minutes that will promote unity within my own real life? The answers came quick and were surprisingly unsurprising. I found unity in hopeful discomfort within groups of imperfect people enduring something they wanted to change.
Three specific situations flashed big red blinking in my mind. A decade ago a best friend and I had hit a rough patch and hadn’t really spoken in a couple-ish years. Before sunrise on October 13th, 2010 I got the call that my loving daddy had died suddenly. Guess who I called? Guess who answered immediately? Through tears I shared my news and followed with an apology. She never skipped a beat. Unity. She drove five hours to be by my side at his funeral. That moment felt devastating, impossible, humbling and safe.
In 2013 I found myself in Port au Prince, Haiti in the back of a van popping dramamine to try to ward off a panic attack. I was with a group of people I did not know in a country whose beauty was haunting me by pointing out how fickle every comfort I clung to was and how little I knew about the real world and its complexities. That group of strangers laughed, were shocked, learned, hoped and took care of each other. Unity. That trip felt UNCOMFORTABLE, unsettling, epic, anchoring.
I think of the time my family of five was bickering while running errands. We had just closed ourselves into our moving metal machine on wheels, strapped ourselves in and drove off to continue our sour moods and ugliness in the not so quietest of ways. No one was right but everyone was sure they were. My husband found himself focusing on the road and yielding through a roundabout. You know those intersections that work well when everyone puts on their blinker at the right moment and knows not to slow until it’s time to take their turn. The rest of us continued with our eye rolls and snarky pointing fingers not realizing that we had gone around the circle about 4 times. That man looked at me, smirked and continued his roundabout heist for another 6 rounds. We all ended up in laughter with crazy eyes and tempers tempered. Unity. That morning felt aggravating, neverending, unchangeable, and relieving. Our family talks about that roundabout to this day.
Unity is looking at each other in the real life eyes and saying we are all we have. We belong to each other. We must take care of each other. Not, you take care of them and I will take care of her and we will take care of no one but us. You know why? Because what if, and this is just a hypothetical so keep your unity pants on, one day your opinion changes or you experience something that shifts what you know to be the absolute truth? What if one day you travel beyond your comfort zone literally or figuratively and become a witness to a tragedy, elation, trauma or joy that demands unification? What if in your attempt not to lose it you find laughter that connects you to a greater knowing. We can disagree on some things and still find joy in choosing what’s good for all over what’s good for one person right now.
Unity doesn’t kick an offender while reminding them where they went wrong. Unity offers dignity and listens closely to what might be TRUE in the bully’s shouts. It doesn’t have a walleyed fit when it comes in last. It works and searches and seeks out experts to learn from, train like and pushes itself to be better. Unity is work, communication, respect, healing, dignity, humanity, forgiveness, boundaries, endurance, servitude, compromise, leadership, empathy, vision, growth, and drive all wrapped up in an unruly package. If your arms are big enough to hold all of those things and claim expertise, then by all means GO, DO! You have zero use for unity and should go at it alone. Show us the way! If not, can we look for these expert qualities in each other and find ways to piece them all together to unify for the greater good? My empathy needs your vision. Your drive needs my boundaries.
Maybe unity is softer, more adaptable than we think. When picking it apart it seems to draw a thinner line than division does. Unity doesn’t ask us to set down our values. It asks us to communicate WELL so that they can be heard and considered by the unfrienders. Unity invites. IT IS NOT EXCLUSIVE. The more people included in a conversation (note: not the more people who explicitly agree) the more likely unity will endure. One thing is for sure – unity requires respect. Respect does not call names or discount history/emotions/trauma/environment. Respect reminds us that we DON’T KNOW THE WHOLE STORY while we interact with each other. Respect taps us on the shoulder when we dismiss people with names like jackass, stupid, crazy and asks us ‘how are you being a crazy stupid jackass right now?’ Or maybe that’s empathy, compassion, self awareness that is tapping us on the shoulder.
Listen, I don’t really know what I am saying. I’m just pontificating (look it up, I did) about what is going on in the loud loud world and how unity seems so elusive. It makes me want to ask so many more questions! Who in your life invites unity? What neighbor have you written off because of one of their loud opinions, but then you remember they were the first to feed your family during a hard time? Who are you most likely to love working with: someone who reminds you often of the shit problems in the world or someone who invites you to find the ways the world works and it’s possibilities. Can you shrink this big thing down and find it in your everyday life? Ask yourself when have you witnessed unity? How did it make you feel? Who was involved and why? Then share your answers with someone you respect and ask them the same questions.
I really do want to hear your answers to these questions too. Please find me at my email address or on a social media platform.