I was casting about for a subject for today’s column when, in a fit of procrastination, I decided to clean out my email inbox. It didn’t really need it but it kept me from writing this column. Whatever it takes.
In my cleansing, I came across some TED Talks I had saved from a year ago. In the spirit of continued procrastination, I thought I should probably get them watched so I could delete them. I’m a purger from way back.
The one that really struck me and serendipitously provided me with today’s subject, was a talk by His Holiness Pope Francis. I was born and reared Catholic (my mom said that only turkeys are raised) and I’ve seen my share of papal representatives. By far, Pope Francis is my fave. He is a uniter, he’s all about kindness and tolerance, and he’s got the sweetest smile. Plus, listening to a TED Talk in Italian is like tiramisu for the ears. It’s best if you don’t think too hard about that metaphor. Just go with it.
Pope Francis wanted to make three important points, which I will helpfully share with you along with my personal asides.
First, he states that we all need each other. None of us is an island nor autonomous. We have to stand together, next to each other. Holding hate or resentment in our hearts against another, whether against a people or a person, leaves nothing but ashes in place of our heart. Being unforgiving is no way to live.
I pride myself on my ability to forgive and move on but is that really true? What stories am I still telling about my life that defines my future, and not in a good way? Is that an accurate retelling and regardless, does it serve me, my family, and my life as it is now? Probably not. I may need to rewrite my more difficult narratives.
Second, the Pope wonders what would happen if solidarity was the default attitude in political, economic, and scientific choices? Solidarity is defined as a union or fellowship arising from common responsibilities and interests, between members of a group or between classes, peoples, etc. What if solidarity was automatic in relationships between individuals, countries, groups of people? To quote Louis Armstrong, what a wonderful world this would be.
Pope Francis says solidarity is a response born from the heart of everyone. We all have it, we just need to free it. In my life, I’d like to forge solidarity between Madge (formerly Shirley) and Ethel, the cats. Unfortunately, Ethel continues to withhold her natural urge to be kind to her adopted sister, against the obvious teachings of His Holiness. Unfortunate.
The Pope talks about the future being hope. Hope is not being optimistically naïve and ignoring the tragedies all around us. Instead, hope is looking ahead – not getting mired in past hurts or just getting by in the present. One person is enough for hope to exist and that hopeful person can be you. More than one you becomes an “us” and with an “us” comes revolution.
That revolution, His Holiness says in closing, is one of tenderness. Tenderness is when love becomes real and close. It starts in our heart and travels to our eyes, ears, and hands. Once there, love allows us to see others, hear others, comfort and support others.
Pay attention to those around you; especially to those you may not usually see or hear. The stocker at Walmart. The newspaper delivery person. The barista at the coffee hut. The guy who changes your oil. Our lives are enhanced by other people. We might recognize that fact with friends and family but it’s also true of those who aren’t immediately obvious to us. See and hear them too.
Pope Francis says the future is in the hands of people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other.
I may never get Ethel to believe that she and Madge could be an “us,” but I have hope and will keep trying. What can you do in your life?