The birth of tolerance

I love the spring. When the world awakens from the sleepy, frigid dream of winter, something inside of me begins to smile. The sight of slight green shoots emerging from the long-brown branches of a sleepy, dormant landscape excite me in a way that is hard to describe. I start to feel alive in a way that I seem to have forgotten.  I find the vibrant colors of early spring flowers contrasted against the leafless branches and still sleeping grasses that will soon emerge in their own glorious ritual of rebirth exceptionally inspiring.  And without fail, spring revives a renewed sense of hope within my spirit. A renewed sense that everything I have worked towards and hoped for and believed in, everything I have tried yet failed to accomplish, is once again within reach. And just like the soft, green shoots of spring flowers break through the cold, hard winter soil, I once again believe that love and hope and communities of people can overcome all of the injustice and hate and meanness of the world. I’ve been a middle-class suburbanite all of my life.  I’ve never faced the loneliness of true hunger, or the raw energy of institutionalized hate.  I grew up watching He-Man and GI Joe save their respective worlds from singularly despicable villains that were motivated only by their desires for power and destruction.  I grew up eating Lucky Charms, always wrenching open the box as soon as we got home from the grocery store to make sure that I got my hands on the cheap plastic toy or game inside before one of my sisters could.  I grew up in a family with a mother and a father that were always present, always loving, and unflinchingly dedicated to creating a safe and nurturing environment for me and my sisters.  There was shouting and anger and tears, but it was always rooted in love. Love that was so passionate that it tore out each of our hearts to disappoint one another. Love that permeated every activity, from finger painting to finger pointing, and held us together with the confidence that despite our individual shortcomings, we were all in this thing together and all we wanted was what was best for one another. It was real and it was beautiful. And when I venture out into the world from my suburban bubble, I can’t help but feel a sense of hope. A sense that the love that was created and nurtured and shared in my home could help ease so many of the problems of the world. A sense that if we embrace the idea that we’re all in this together that the meanness could melt away to reveal a world full of little boys and girls that just want to share and work hard and love and be loved. It seems to me that the injustices of hate and intolerance and selfishness are a disease that has a cure. That the resources required to overcome our communal failings are available and just waiting to be deployed and nurtured and allowed to blossom into a world filled with a real, tolerant love for humanity and life and the power of believing that we truly are all in this thing together and that together there is absolutely nothing that can’t be overcome. And before you write me off as naive or ignorant or some kind of communist hippy know that I’ve walked through the slums of Haiti. I’ve slept in the hut of a Maasai family formed from cow dung and mud in Kenya. I’ve proudly served in the US military during a foreign wartime deployment. And I was born and raised in a community that has been cursed for generations with the divisive, destructive scourge of slavery, segregation, and endemic, systemic racism. But then there’s that hope thing. That nagging, persistent belief that all that is inherently righteous and kind and born from the human capacity to love is crying out in each and every one of us, trying to come to the surface.  The belief that despite our cultural bias to fear the “other” and protect our own, everyone has not only the innate ability, but also the often unacknowledged desire to see our world as whole and to acknowledge that we are, in fact, all in this together. The understanding that although we each have shortcomings and differences of opinions and addictions and desires, the only way to overcome injustice is to live with love in our hearts. And not just a love for things that we understand and hold dear, but a love for the things that we don’t. A righteous, passionate love that fights not against the things we fear or hate, but fights for fairness and goodness and the courage to always grow and continue to learn what that means. Outside of my window, I can see the earth awakening from a long, cold winter.  The re-birth exploding in the world around me fills me with hope and renews my belief that together, we shall overcome.

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