20,000 miles. That’s how far we’ve driven since October to explore issues, listen to stories, and imagine new possibilities. All with our trailer / house in tow.
We’ve stayed at state parks, horse ranches, RV campgrounds, and the back corners of distillery parking lots. We’ve met artists and activists, politicians and programmers, veterans and veterinarians.
It’s true that our country is divided in many ways. Turn on the television and it doesn’t take long for both the rhetoric and your blood pressure to rise.
But this is also true: There are good people everywhere.
When you step away from the screen and encounter people face to face, a lot of the labels we like to pin on people can fall away. By engaging in person and taking the first steps to build trust and dialogue, we can challenge our own expectations and start to see the humanity in those we might otherwise consider adversaries.
We are currently doing that on a national scale. Stories of resilience in Appalachia. The historical ramifications of slavery in Charleston, South Carolina. Immigration issues along the border in Arizona. Land use and coastal ecology in the Louisiana bayou. We are seeing the country, but also seeing where our understanding has fallen short.
There’s no shame in that. We all know what we know and there’s a lot to wrap your head around in this world of ours. Wherever you are in your journey, I always think the most compelling question is: “What’s next?”
So here we are on the road (and I hope you’ll follow along), but the same truths can be found in each and every community across our country. Including yours. You can meet your neighbors. You can understand the issues more deeply. You can attend a new house of worship by Zoom. You can show up somewhere to volunteer that is going to expose you to new ideas.
Read books, watch movies, listen to podcasts that will push up against your preconceived ideas and wait to see what happens. It might be awkward the first time. You might need to practice. Exercise a little grace. Regroup and try again.
My friend Joe Davis says that we do well what we do often, and that’s true if you are playing basketball, playing the accordion (I’ve been listening to Louisiana Zydeco) or talking about race.
I’m grateful to be in partnership with several organizations that are doing good work across the country, building connections, encouraging dialogue and solving problems.
National Conversation Project.
Each of these initiatives recognizes that we all play a role in healing and strengthening our national fabric. Each of them can connect you to local or online resources to help do that work.
Look around you. There is a lot that needs our attention. There’s some heavy lifting that needs to happen, and many hands…well…you know the saying. Let’s make the burden lighter. Together.
We are going to keep gathering stories because every time I make that connection, I see a little glimmer of hope. Every time I go outside of my comfort zone and encounter new ideas, my eyes open a little wider.
If I am going to be selfish about this, I would say that this is good for me. It’s fulfilling and life-giving to fully encounter others. I get to see the world in new ways. But if I put on a wider lens, it’s easy to recognize that this work is good for US. Those connections and those conversations can make us stronger.
We are all on a journey together. Let’s figure out how to do it better.