The last few weeks have included lots of things; reading lots of books, some writing, a trip to Washington, DC, and an early summer head cold just to make it all more interesting and slow me to a stop. All of these have provided opportunities to watch and wonder about so much in our world today.
The trip to Washington, DC, came at a time when I felt the need for a break. After reading several wonderful books, I was feeling reflective – which was a good place to be before embarking on such a trip.
Having spent my career in federal service, most of it within the extended circle around the big city, my experiences of DC in the past were very different in many ways, with the possible exception of the traffic. On this trip, I was not there to see any monuments, or anything remotely related to government or business. I was there to visit my son. The traffic going in was all that I remembered it to be and more…or shall I say worse? What might have been a 5.5 hour trip was easily 7…probably more. Not bad for a Friday, yes?
As I was driving in, crossing the 14th Street bridge, I was listening to local radio, for traffic reports, primarily. What I heard was that the President had just left Joint Base Andrews for his first trip to Europe. Somehow, I felt better, even in the midst of the intense traffic. What has always intrigued me about the District is that they all pay taxes yet have no representatives in Congress. There have been attempts to change that and still the situation exists. I think I recall hearing something in the last election about finally getting statehood for DC. I guess that’s off the table for a while given the enormous distractions before them all now.
The lightness I felt in that moment opened me to see things that I never saw when I was suited up for my executive work years ago. I saw many people of many different colors; I saw many homeless people; I saw great wealth surrounded by great poverty. The dichotomous experience that the District is, especially given the whiteness of the current Cabinet, was absolutely unmistakable before my eyes.
What became clear over the next couple of hours was the present and still beating heart of the city…almost without regard for or concern about the locus of the federal government. People living their lives – walking paths, riding bicycles, speaking to each other as they pass, music in the distance, sometimes overshadowed by the sound of a passing Metro train – all of the sights and sounds of any big city in this country. And yet, there was something different about this one. Perhaps it really was the stark contrast of those who would never be able to understand, or even care, about the ones I was seeing as I walked, that caught me. It’s as if the city is a ring around a very chaotic, and dysfunctional system that has become our democracy. I would never assume that these residents are oblivious to the dysfunction or the chaos. I would say that they are living their lives as best they can without allowing it all to completely consume them. Survival is probably enough for some of them.
As I watched, I wondered…how many of us have become so distracted about the current state of our country that we get lost, even temporarily, to concern, despair or even fear?
And then I went home with a head cold coming on fast and finished a book I had started a few weeks ago, which reminded me that there is hope. There is still hope for the species to awaken and for us to remember that many of us ARE awake. I recall a popular politician saying in February, “Despair is not an option.” Indeed it is not; and we need only continue to remember Who We Are and Why We Are here.
Finding our way forward can feel like a hard slog on some days. Trudging through the mud of hate; the marginalization of the poor and disenfranchised; and the seeming endless list of things that are being threatened to be removed or taken away; can take its toll on all of us.
Many of us are awake. We get it. We need continue to choose the higher thoughts, to love, to be present to dream our future and to get back to nature. THAT is what is real and holds the healing salve for our sad and broken hearts.
As I watch, I wonder what is possible?
Here’s to the people who maintain their focus on living. Every. Single. Day.
Here’s to honing our skills of objective observation, compassionate listening and quiet meditation.
Peace and Love to all.