It’s been a year…

There was a part of me that wanted to forgo the typical end of year review. 2020 has been hard. Our programming was cancelled. Our income went away. We worried about the health of our loved ones. We missed our friends. We lost our beloved pup, Bailey. As challenging as it’s been for us, we recognize it has been downright devastating for others. A part of me wanted to just push it all aside, put my head down and forge ahead. I suppose that’s my stoic Germanic heritage rearing its stubborn head.

But I’ve learned that it’s important we don’t hide from life’s difficult parts. There is richness in a full reckoning of where we are at, what we have done and where we are headed. Optimism is a worthy exercise, but we do ourselves no favors by candy-coating history or our current reality.

I am reminded of Angela Bates’ quote, from the time I interviewed her in Nicodemus, Kansas. In the midst of sharing a difficult part of her own journey, she paused and said, “But, I have a choice. How am I going to respond to the world around me?”

And at the end of the day, we all have that choice, no matter how difficult life may be. We can’t always control what happens to us, but we absolutely can control the way we respond to it.

And so, while I am not big on resolutions, I will offer up a few commitments for the new year. I will choose the ways I will respond to the world, and I will do my best to uphold them.

I will choose love, compassion and patience as my default responses. Especially in stressful times, our tempers can get short and we can lash out in hurtful ways. I will commit to slower and more thoughtful responses, especially in difficult moments.

I will challenge my expectations. I have 53 years of history on this earth, and some of those experiences have made me predetermined to see the world in a certain way. While I don’t have to beat myself up for feeling those feels and thinking those thoughts, I do need to remain open to challenging them so that I can see the world in new and transformative ways.

I will live in gratitude. As challenging as this year has been, we have much to be grateful for. Friends and family have encouraged and loved us. Hundreds of people donated to our Indiegogo campaign to support us and help us gather new stories on the road. We have remained healthy. We have been surrounded by extra hands throughout the prep and sale of our house.  Gratitude is a practiced skill and it reveals beauty in life’s small moments.

I will be an ally. If there is such a thing as privilege (and there is), then I am the poster child for it. Middle aged, Christian, college educated, able bodied, cis-gendered white guy, married with two kids and (until recently) a dog and a minivan in the suburbs. The question is, what will I do with that privilege? Use it for self-serving purposes, or leverage it to try to make the world a little more just for all people, especially those who may not experience the same privilege I have?

I will walk with humility and curiosity. There is a lot I don’t know about the world, and by staying curious and humble, I can keep my eyes open to learn. As Alphonso Brown said in our recent interview, “When you know better, you do better.”

I will embrace this journey of discovery. We find ourselves in a unique position to be able to travel the country and encounter difference. I don’t know how long it will last or exactly where it will lead us, but we will accept the uncertainty, we will embrace the opportunity and we will share what we learn.

In all that 2020 has brought to us, two lessons stand out in my mind.

Lesson one: We are all more vulnerable than we once thought. I hope that that revelation can help us to be more compassionate with one another in this broken world.

And lesson two: We are all more connected than we ever knew. We need each other. We thrive together and we all do better when we all do better.

May 2021 bring us new opportunities to grow and learn together. May we work toward a world that is more just and equitable for all. And may we all find peace.

John

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