I recently received, through email, a political “joke,” a cartoonish thing that the sender must seen as having sufficient merit to warrant sharing it with four people, of whom I was probably the only one who found it offensive, bordering on violent.
I keep thinking that she sent it to me in error, but there it was in my mailbox. I could have guessed her political persuasion, but I wish I had not glimpsed the bitterness and hostility behind it. I wanted to respond, but I deleted it instead.
Here’s the complication. The sender and I used to be connected to one another through our children. We had a cordial relationship, and over a ten-year period, we were often in one another’s homes. But ever since the divorce of our children, which I know broke both our hearts, we have been simply and quietly out of touch—though our paths will cross again, for we have two young grandchildren in common. Of course we each want the best for their future, even though, politically speaking, we differ in how we think that might be accomplished.
The thing is, receiving that email from her was an up-close-and-way-too-personal reminder of the deep divisions that afflict not only the two of us and our particular families but also those in culture beyond. Meanwhile, I know that while she and I differ in many respects and do not share all of the same values, we do share some. And then there’s the matter of our grandchildren.
This week, riding through the heavens on our fragile planet, all earthlings will undergo a change of seasons. Those who live south of the equator will move from winter into spring while those of us in the northern hemisphere will move from summer into fall. I, for one, am ready. We’ve had a long, hot summer in my Virginia neck of the woods. More than that, though, I take comfort in remembering how light continually changes for all people and all cultures as we travel around the sun, for reflecting on that changing light gives me a sense of the wholeness of creation— and reminds me that creation’s goodness is greater than our tribal divisions.
Thus reminded, perhaps in the first few days of fall, while day and night are still fairly evenly balanced, I will respond to that email. I would like to tell the sender that, as regards our differences, my heart is heavy. I would also like to say that I wish her and her family well. We share a common humanity, and we share a common brokenness.
And not only to her but to everyone I would like to say that I wish we could find opportunities and language to talk over our differences, to work with both reason and compassion toward solving the complex problems our world faces, and to be kind and respectful to one another as we figure it out. In fact, that is my prayer at this change of seasons. From all extremes of both hot and cold, dear God, deliver us.