In case you have been living under a rock, it’s election season here in the Ol’ US of A. It’s about time to dust off those voter registration cards, put on your red, white and blue, walk proudly up to the voting booth and cast your vote. I actually completed my civil duty today during the early voting process. As I was walking into my voting precinct, I tried to explain to a seven-year-old and two-year-old why this process is so important. You know, we are American citizens, we live in a free democracy – the “I’m proud to be an American” speech. And, just as I was about to break out in song, I heard, “Ma’am, I’d appreciate your vote”. First of all, let me just say that I don’t care for the word ma’am – please don’t call me ma’am. Call me Miss, Young Lady, Hey You – but don’t call me Ma’am. It makes me feel like my wrinkle cream isn’t working. Next, let me just admit that dueling parties, standing on opposite sides of the sidewalk, makes an independent woman a little uncomfortable. So when the wanna-be Mr. Mayor and Suzie what’s-her-face running for senate started begging for my vote, I just looked into their puppy dog eyes, gave the obligatory southern nod and smile, and thought – How’d we get here?
Now, I understand the election process – campaigning and all – and I know a lot of the history behind both political parties, but the thing that has bothered me so much over the past few weeks is – how did we, as Americans, get to the point where bickering, hatefulness, and down-right meanness is tolerated? In this case, I’m mostly referring to the presidential race, as I did not encounter fisticuffs at the Charlie Daniels Community Center. Debate after debate after debate we saw two people argue, tear each other down ,and hate each other so much they couldn’t even shake hands. Now this may be the Southern Belle coming out in me, but I don’t know of a single person on the planet who’s hand I wouldn’t shake – I may say “bless your heart” under my breath, but I believe I could get through a hand shake. How’d we get here?
This is a question that I honestly do not have an answer to and we could probably debate this topic til next Christmas but I believe that, in order to improve the problem, we must first look within ourselves.
The bonus room in my house serves mostly as my husband’s music room/office, but I have a little corner with a desk that holds my sewing machine, an old antique lamp, my grandparents clock, and a picture that my sister painted that reads, “As for me and my house, we will serve the lord”. I love this little corner, it makes me feel at home. For some reason, just after voting, this picture really caught my eye – mostly the “As for me” part. This phrase is throughout the bible attached to many different verses, but why now can’t I get this little “as for me” off my mind?
After pondering for days, I think it’s because it represents choices that we, individually, must make within ourselves. Choices not about how we will vote, but choices about how we will live. Choices that, no matter our beliefs, will shape our lives and the lives of others. I hate to tell ya, but how we treat each other matters!!! It really matters. And, if you call yourself a Christian, Jesus himself addressed this subject in John 15:35: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. Not if you vote Republican or Democrat, not if you go to church, not if you memorize bible verses, or even tithe – but how you LOVE!!!
Now love is a strong word and has a variety of definitions, but I think most people would agree that we treat those that we love a little differently. We may judge those persons a little less, give a little more grace, speak kindly, find patience, forgive, and even shake their hand. We may even begin to value a friendship or family relationship over our personal beliefs or agendas – just imagine what a little love could do.
In my career as a nurse, I’ve had the privilege to spend time with people in their last years, months, days, hours, minutes, and seconds. I’ve held the hand of people from all walks of life (every race, religious background, sexual orientation, etc.) and one thing that we all have in common is love. In your last moments, I can tell you that most of the stuff we are fighting about won’t matter to you or your family. You won’t care about who you voted for, who the supreme court justice is, or even the president; but you will care about who you loved and who loved you.
I’ll borrow a few words from Pete Wilson again and say, “We don’t get to choose how we die, but we do get to choose how we live, so choose well”. We can choose love, peace, grace and mercy. We can choose to value people over politics. We can agree to disagree.
So, since I’m quoting my favorite speakers – in the words of Andy Stanley, I ask myself, “What does love require of me?”. When I disagree? When I feel like my rights are threatened? When I’m offended? When I’m winning? And, even when I’m losing? In this political season, what does love require of me?
As for me, I will choose respect, peace-keeping, grace, kindness, patience, forgiveness, and, above all else, love. I will value people over politics. I strive to live at peace. I will vote and I will leave it on the field, so to speak. And if I get caught up in the madness and forget these things, may the little sign in my favorite corner catch my eye again….. As for me.