unity

Hands & Words & What They Can Do

The other day I was thinking about hands.

So often we look down at our hands, sometimes nervously, sometimes mindlessly, sometimes in shock or amazement. I recently painted a bookshelf and each day as I was cleaning up I would look down at my hands, covered in white paint, and be proud of the work I accomplished—and ­annoyed at how long it was going to take me to get my hands clean.

Hands can build. And we’ve seen them build. They create things from the ground up and we look at them, amazed that what we see before us came from these hands.

In the same way, hands can hurt. And we’ve seen them hurt. In movies, it’s common to see heroes and villains alike look down at their hands, wondering how—how could these hands have done such a thing? 

Hands leave their mark, good or bad, building or destroying, often stopping us in our tracks to look at the wake of their work.

But the same isn’t always true for words.

When we speak, when we talk or scream or whisper or mention or mumble or demand or inquire or refuse or agree, we use our words. But we don’t always see what our words do. Oftentimes our words leave our mouths and we never know where they land or how far they reach.  We don’t know if they fall on deaf ears or vulnerable ones. We don’t know if they are quickly forgotten or remembered forever.

Our words can build. They can inspire people. They can stay with people. They can shape people. In the same way, our words can hurt. They can tear people down. They can send people into darkness. They can shape people.

Our words leave marks, but oftentimes we don’t see them, especially when so many of our words are spoken online these days. We text and tweet and caption and comment and share and shout into the void of the internet and social media, assuming no one can hear us. We post and repost, sometimes solely to protect ourselves from judgment, and often without regard for those who might be hurt by what we say. We forget that people are people, even people that are different from us, even people who disagree with us. We forget that our words can build twice as high as our hands and can cut twice as fast.

I’m not here to tell you what to say, how to say it, or to infringe at all upon your right to say it. I just think we all could use a reminder that words matter. Our words matter. Whether we have one follower or millions. And what we say can change the world, for better or for worse. In this moment and in the infinity to follow. So let’s take our time. Let’s think about what we say and how we’re saying it. Let’s focus on echoing the good in what we’re fighting for rather than the hate for those we feel we’re fighting against. Let’s use our words (and our hands) to build and then watch as a new world takes shape.

The Election & What to do Now

When I woke up this past Tuesday, I had a knot in my stomach. For weeks it had seemed as though Election Day was always just out of sight, but suddenly I was awake in its hours, knowing my country would be different before I went to bed.

I brushed my teeth, ate breakfast, and read through my ballot book again, ensuring I was ready to vote later that afternoon, then I got in my car and went to work, just like any other day.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I’d seen celebrities and social media personalities alike sharing their voice and reminding everyone how important it was to vote. This is one thing I’ve always admired about election season, for even amongst all the phone calls and mail and lengthy commercials that come with the arrival of that second Tuesday in November, so to do we get an influx of reminders: Reminders that we have the right to vote. Reminders that we all need to stand together. Reminders that we can all be different. Reminders that we are all free to share our voices and that they will be heard.

On Tuesday night, as I sat in my favorite chair, staring at the television screen that glowed red, I again found that knot in my stomach, though it was farther removed from the results than one might think. I nodded my head, walked up the stairs to my room and fell asleep, anxious for what my world would be like in the morning. And when I woke up, it was even more disappointing than I could have imagined.

Venom. That’s the only word I can think of to describe what I saw and heard. Venom in the words spit by person after person and venom injected into those they were aimed at. And while I understood the disappointment, the fear, the hurt, I couldn’t fathom how any of this was helping.

These attacks aimed from American to American, brother to sister, what were they doing to heal the wounds of those who felt wounded? What good had it been to encourage people to vote, if persecution awaited them if that vote wasn’t “correct”? And how, after months of marrying the words of someone who has now become the new President with hate and malice and disgust, how did we seek to redeem those words by using them ourselves on one another?

When the results came through, I saw a lot of people claim our country was divided, now more than ever. And while I think the cracks in our unity shine through during every election season, as tensions are high and opinions are loud, it is not the results that are doing the dividing, it is what we are doing with them. Have we forgotten that we are not the opinions of one man or woman? We have never been the product of the actions of one single person. We have always been and always will be a collection of voices, actions, and opinions that make up one great nation. But if we continue let the fear of the presence of hate nourish the growth of it inside each of us, we risk uniting under the single thing that can destroy us.

So as we take our first few steps in the wake of these results, let us not forget that we are not strangers that need to walk silently and stiffly in avoidance of those who are different than us. For it is our differences that make us strong. It is our differences that make us great. And it is in times like these that we need those differences in order to find balance and unity, compromise and compassion. So no matter who you voted for, take time to find encouragement in the words from both parties, as they both have come forward to ignite hope and offer support, both for one another and our country as a whole, and we would do well to follow their example. For America is already great, but it can be greater. We are strong, but we are stronger together. And if we can find a way to unite, we can do anything.

From Senator Hillary Clinton:

“I still believe in America and I always will….And — and to all the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

From President-Elect Donald Trump:

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division…To all Republicans and Democrats and Independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people.”

And from President Barack Obama:

“We’re not Democrats first, we’re not Republicans first. We’re Americans first. We’re patriots first.”