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I went on a date recently with a beautiful dark-skinned woman who spoke with a striking English accent. She moved to this country 10 years ago from India and is now a US citizen. During our lunch, the conversation turned to one of the taboo topics we are instructed never to talk about on dates or social gatherings. Unfortunately for me, that topic was not sex, but rather politics . . . well, kinda. In truth, it was really about the breakdown of civility in America.

 

During our conversation, she shared with me an experience she had recently in one of my favorite towns in Pennsylvania. It occurred shortly after the election in November. While she was standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, she noticed a group of young men approaching from her right. They were quite boisterous and were celebrating President Trump’s recent victory. As they got closer, they surrounded her and starting shouting at her. “You don’t belong here!” “Get out of our country!” “Go back to where you came from!”

 

She continued to look forward, not engaging them, waiting for the light to change. She shared with me that that was the longest light of her life.

 

As you can imagine, I was deeply saddened to hear what happened to her. And even though I was surprised, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Prejudice and such ugliness exists, and has always existed, in our country.

 

But this is not what made my heart absolutely ache with pain.

 

As she stood at that light and endured their onslaught of abuse for that never-ending minute, praying for the light to change, no one came to her aide. Not a single soul. Of all the people at that busy intersection, no man, woman or child took it upon themselves to say something, or stand by her side, or take her arm and walk with her, or diffuse the energy of the situation. No one.

 

All of the people at that intersection . . . all of us . . . let it happen.

 

Of course, none of us really knows how we will respond until we are in the situation ourselves, but I pray that when I am, I will act upon what I know and feel in my heart and take a stand for my fellow human.

 

We must never forget that those who suffer such ugliness and incivility are human, just like you and me. They are a friend, a mother, a brother, a child. They love like you and me. They cry like you and me. They feel joy like you and me. They fear like you and me. They suffer sadness like you and me. They bleed like you and me.

 

Never forget to act first and foremost from your heart, for that is where your highest truth and greatest courage resides. It is impossible for me to imagine that a heart would ever whisper to turn away in indifference.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Do not shrink in the face of your fear. Do not forget your humanness when confronted by incivility . . . and do not forget theirs. There are only two doors to choose from here – love and fear. Well, actually three. The third is indifference. But to choose that third door is to be a complicit conspirator of whatever is unfolding before you.

 

My Valentine wish for America is that we find our way through this cloud of incivility and arrive at a place where we can listen and respect those who do not agree with our current thinking. That we arrive at a place where we seek to understand, even if we choose not to adopt an opposing point of view. That we arrive at a place where we have the wisdom to understand that if we are “right” today, there is a good chance we will be “wrong” tomorrow.

 

We are, after all, human.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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After our recent election, I was drawn to one of my favorite places to hike – Jockey Hollow. Jockey Hollow was the encampment site for our Revolutionary Army for two brutal winters, and the hills and forests of this place are alive with the spirit that gave birth to our country.

 

jockeyhollow4On this particular sunny, fall day I decided to hike a trail I have not hiked before. While hiking, I came to a sign on the trail that indicated the trail turned right, but I saw no trail that way. What I did see, however, was a big hill in front of me, and I LOVE being on the top of hills and mountains. So I abandoned the marked trail and started bushwhacking my way up the hill.

 

The symbolism of this decision was not lost on me since we as a nation are now blazing a new trail and are venturing into uncharted territory.

 

Once on top of the hill, I explored a bit, I enjoyed the view, and I appreciated the accomplishment. From the top of that hill, though, I saw an even bigger hill, and for whatever reason it is in my blood that if there is a higher peak to climb, I MUST climb it. So off I went.

 

Here’s the thing about striving to get to a higher peak. In order to get from one peak to the next we must travel through a valley. As such, we must never fear the low points, for they are simply part of the journey to something greater.

 

When I got to the floor of the valley, I found a beautiful stream trickling over rocks, filling the air with a gurgling meditative rhythm. I sat on a rock, closed my eyes, and just listened, breathed and enjoyed the darkness of the valley shadowed by the rising hill next to me. As I listened, I pondered the fact that I did not hear or see any animals all day, which was odd. Not even a squirrel or bird.

 

After drinking in the moment, I began my ascent up the next hill. The sun was setting, and I hoped that from the next peak I would see a landmark I recognized or perhaps see a trail. I have to admit I was a bit lost and anxious as I did not have any bearing in the forest. When I reached the peak, unfortunately all I saw was more unfamiliar woods. No path. No landmark. No voices. No sound of cars.

 

Doubt crept into the back of my mind and I felt that nervous pit in my stomach that accompanies uncertainty. Now, granted I was hiking in New Jersey, so I knew that if I hiked long enough I would eventually cross a road, but with the sun going down, I also knew I needed to be smart.

 

This is why I love hiking in the woods and venturing down new paths. It tests and challenges my limits. In this moment I could either panic . . . or I could listen and trust.

 

My experience taught me to listen and trust. So I did.

 

After not seeing any animals all day, suddenly a wild turkey appeared. I couldn’t help but think that the turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s favorite bird and that he favored making it the national bird over the bald eagle, at least according to the myth.

 

I followed the turkey over the crest of the hill and as it ran off into the forest I saw a pink ribbon tied to a tree. And then another. And another after that. I followed the trail of ribbons and eventually came to a marked trail, which eventually led me to a road, which eventually led me home.

 

We must not fear new paths. It is in the unknown that we come to know ourselves best. But in order to find our way out of the darkness and uncertainty, we must listen and trust.

 

Hope is like a path in the countryside:
originally there was no path
– yet
as people are walking all the time,
in the same spot,
a path appears.

 

– Lu Xun

 

We all must travel unknown paths at some point in our lives. Whether they are found in a relationship, a career, financial matters, health, or any other domain. At some point we must step onto a new path.

 

We can either take that first step in fear and dread the journey, or we can take it with hope, trusting that it will lead us to new learning, growth, insights and maybe even an amazing adventure. Regardless of where the path may eventually lead, choosing hope and trust, rather than fear, will ensure the journey is more enjoyable.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

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