I was texting with my favorite blog editor who happens to be my sister-in-law about what to write next. I am simultaneously captivated by humans who have spent their lives to be among the best in their sport and horrified by humans who seem to have no regard for anyone’s life but their own. On one channel are images of men and women from all nations who sacrificed their bodies in many ways to achieve their dreams and make their nation proud. On the other channel are images of a young man who managed to leave 17 young people dead and many more bodies harmed.
If you are anything like me your social media and news feeds are full of debates about what, if anything, should be done. Or what, if anything, CAN be done. I have my opinions…which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. I have an opinion on almost everything and share it freely with anyone who will listen. But today I’d like to speak more about what shapes those thoughts and feelings. I believe it’s a matter of what you fear most. You see, when I look at those athletes coming out of the gates taking a nine foot drop onto a mountain to race around corners and over jumps or taking off down that giant ski jump, I am afraid. Afraid that if you asked me to do either of those things I would end up with great bodily harm (think broken femur and ruptured spleen, for example). But for those Olympians, fear of failure was greater than the fear of falling or of injury. Day in and day out they decided that what they feared most was not giving their all or doing their best.
For me, at least at the moment, I have some serious fears. I fear my kids won’t have properly educated teachers in their schools because my state can’t figure out how to pay them a living wage. I fear that a university official somewhere will choose their own career or financial gain for their institution over protecting women from assault and harassment. I’m afraid that my kids will need to use their skills learned during intruder drills and find their way into their designated hiding spaces in their classes…or worse. I’m afraid that when we see something we don’t say something…and even worse, when we do no one listens. And what I’ve noticed is that these situations all have two things in common: selfishness and power. Over and over again our news feeds are filled with the powerful and privileged making choices to satisfy their own agenda. You see, when someone decides their desires, their needs, their well-being is more important than a child, a woman or even the person across the aisle, then everyone loses.
Imagine a world in which, in every choice we made, we were allegiant not to our own interests or desires but to the needs of the other. Imagine if, when faced with the plight of children, those in poverty, or the mentally ill, we were careful to ensure that their needs and their safety and well-being were placed above our own. What if we were careful to do so even if it came at a personal cost to ourselves. If we relinquished our power and our clenched fists and opened our hands to the possibility that we exist to serve the other more than to serve ourselves.
But we are afraid. Or at least I am. Afraid of giving up what I’ve worked hard for. Afraid of suffering if I relinquish power or privilege. Let us be challenged each day to be more afraid of a world where we fail to report inappropriate behavior or where we don’t speak up when someone is being harmed or where we won’t sacrifice part of our lives for the sake of the generation behind us. Let our fear of failing to create a better world for our kids be bigger than our fear of anything else. Or better yet, stop being afraid and start changing the world.