4 Things to Tell Our Kids {and Ourselves} the Day After a Bitter Election

walking away

I went to bed at 10:20 last night. This election season had already robbed our nation of its dignity and decorum. I wasn’t about to let it rob me of my sleep.

I woke up a little before 6 am and immediately checked my phone. I ran into the living room where my husband sat and asked in disbelief, “Did he WIN?!?”

“Yes,” he said. “Donald Trump won.”

And then in a reaction that I could not anticipate or explain, I leaned against the knotty pine wall and wept. They were not tears of joy.

This post is not about my political views, which are a mixed bag. I don’t really fit anywhere or with anyone. I’ll simply say that I didn’t vote for either main party candidate. Because I don’t live in a battleground state, I had the luxury of voting my conscience. Sort of.

I also live in a house that is somewhat divided. None of my children are of legal voting age but they have opinions nonetheless. The five of us passionate people have not been able to calmly talk about politics for sometime now. I’m a misfit even in my own home.

As I fed my boys oatmeal and then drove my teenagers to school, I told them a few things. I cried a lot and they looked at me, bewildered. But there were things they needed to know before they walked into their diverse community of peers and it was my responsibility to tell them.

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1. Everyone is feeling differently about the results. Please be kind and sensitive.

Mlo & CJ

For example, your hispanic friends might feel afraid today. Their family’s status here may not be secure. You were born into the privileges that come with white skin, American citizenship, financial stability, educational opportunity, and freedom. So was I. We didn’t choose these privileges or ask for them. We possessed them as soon as soon as exited our mother’s wombs and entered the world.

You have friends at your school who tell a different story. Please consider their story.

In the words of Atticus Finch,

…If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

If ever there was a time for walking around in someone else’s skin, surely it’s now.

There are also those who are glad or relieved today. For example, hardworking small business owners who have been shackled by legislation to the point of laying off employees and not being able to provide for the families of their workers.

This heavy responsibility has kept them up at night. Perhaps they have a bit of hope today.

We need to understand this too.

Every vote has a story behind it. If we don’t make space in our minds and hearts to understand this, we will continue to be marked by division instead of connection.

 

 

2. Listen.

tab and nomi

“Kids, whether you’re on Twitter {remember, I have teenagers}, in the lunchroom, on the bus, or in the classroom — practice listening. In this world where everyone has something to say and is rushing to say it fastest and loudest and angriest and funniest, choose instead to listen. And as you listen, seek to understand where the fear or relief or concern or anger is really coming from.”

One of the redeeming gifts of this election is a text thread between my siblings and me. We didn’t all vote the same but we do share common hopes, fears, concerns, and the desperate need for comic relief. Most of all, we love and respect and trust one another. We’ve been texting obsessively for three days now, sharing the funny things our kids have said and passing along the best stuff from Twitter.

My brother and his wife have a five-year-old daughter with special needs. When his two older kids saw the video of Trump mocking someone with disabilities, that was all they needed. In the clearcut understanding that only children possess, a vote for Trump, in their minds, was a vote of hate against their little sister.

As grown-ups, we know that’s not necessarily true. That it’s more nuanced than that.

But it’s easy to understand why my niece and nephew feel that way, isn’t it?

Seek to listen in such a way that it’s easy to understand why people feel the way they do, even if you don’t agree. Understanding doesn’t equal agreement. But understanding and empathy go a long way in preserving relationship and strengthening community.

 

3. We don’t all agree on the government’s responsibilities to its people, but Jesus is  clear on our responsibilities to all people.

girls lake

What if we cared more about our individual responsibilities to others than about securing our individual rights?

What if we dared to love those who are racially, socially, and politically different than us, just like Jesus did?

One of my favorite examples of this is the Samaritan woman at the well.

The Samaritans were a racially mixed people who had thwarted Jewish efforts to rebuild the temple. They were long-time enemies who mixed other beliefs with Scripture.

Furthermore, this woman was, well, a woman. Tradition mandated that Jesus not even speak to her. He was a man, a Jew, a rabbi. And she wasn’t just a woman, she was a woman of loose morals. A woman who had gone through five husbands and was living with a man she wasn’t married to.

But Jesus.

He crossed the lines of race, gender, class, and respectability because he loved her. He sought her out. Read the story and you’ll discover that He — someone who held all the power — makes himself indebted to her.

He defied social and religious law for her.

Why? Because the reality of who He was — truth and love and hope — was her ultimate need. Jesus did not manifest himself to her in pages of right theology, in social programs, or economic legislation.

He simply went to her in love and truth. Not love without truth or truth without love. He carried both.

And He went to great lengths to do so, changing his route to situate himself in her life. This means he took action. He crossed every respectable barrier to sit beside her at the well in the heat of the day.

{Before the chapter ends we see that His next miracle was for a wealthy official, proof that spiritual poverty is common to all of humanity. Don’t neglect loving and serving your rich neighbor simply because he’s rich. Need and lack come in all forms.}

 

4. Let’s be willing to do it.

cheeseboard bfast

If you’re someone who has said that the rapidly expanding and encroaching government has taken over the responsibilities of the church, I have good news.

You might get the chance to put your money with your mouth is.

If you’re someone who is in a state of grief this morning because you’re afraid of what this election means for the vulnerable and marginalized, I have good news.

You too will get the chance to put your money where your mouth is.

The people, the causes, the social justice work that matters to you — it matters just as much now and you can be part of the solution.

I told my big kids that certain people in our community might need more of our help now and this might cost us something. Maybe not immediately, but maybe eventually. Are we willing to do this?

And to be fair and honest, the same would be true if the election had turned out differently.

Whenever freedoms are lost {or not there to begin with}, we have a responsibility to step in. This will always cost us something.

Jesus stepped into a broken world to do something about it. He knew it would cost him his life but He did it anyway, for us and for the world. And now He makes his home within actual people, imperfect though we are.

Regardless of how you voted or how you feel today, let the power and presence and hope of Jesus lead you into broken places.

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Friends, what does the Lord ask of us on the day after a bitter election?

The same thing He has always asked of us.

To act justly

and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God.

{Micah 6:8b}

We can do these things as we equip our children, as we go to our jobs, as we prepare the meal, as we practice hospitality, as we listen and seek to understand, as we stand with those who don’t have the privileges we have, as we stand with those who voted differently than we did.

May Jesus himself walk beside each of us today. May He remind us that He’s our only true hope. And may He prepare us for the good and sacred work that lies ahead.


 

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Postscript:

There’s a reason I don’t write about politics. It’s not the purpose of this space and I honestly don’t want to spend my mental and emotional energy having these kinds of conversations on the internet. I’m not cut out for it and I hope you’ll respect that. I feel like I have the kindest readers on the planet but with politics, well, it feels risky. I know you won’t all agree with what I’ve written here and that’s okay.

Still, I do have a purpose for this space. I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life, no matter how bleak or messy it appears. I write to remind us of what’s true as we live in the tension between the right-now and the hoped-for. Everything I write has to pass through that filter before I hit publish.

Some of you are already hopeful today. Some of you are not. Some of you don’t know what you are. I pray that these words provide a bit of hope and perspective, no matter where you are or how you’re processing things.

Grace and Peace,
Marian

P.S. These resources have been especially helpful to me in recent years as I learn more about what it means to live with compassion in my community.

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller

Falling Free: Rescued From the Life I Always Wanted by Shannan Martin

Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Father Gregory Boyle

 

Comments

  1. Shannon Hayes says

    My reaction was similar to yours and it surprised me, too. This post is excellent. Thank you for being brave enough to write these words. Peace of Christ to you.

  2. Mary says

    Thank you for this! I’m so over the negativity and the nastiness that have characterized this election. Both sides have behaved so very badly. No Republican, Democrat, or Independent can solve our problems. We need Jesus!

  3. Joan Rampey says

    Numb. That’s what I have been today. And then I read your words (and those of your siblings in other posts) and I am something else. Undone. Weeping with a tremendous sense of the deepest gratitude for the.hearts of my children … and a realization that you are pouring the truths of compassionate living into the hearts of me grandchildren. Numb. Then undone. Thank you.

    • says

      Thank you Mom. I keep coming a little undone too. And then I return to what’s true. And then back again. But this is what we tend to do, isn’t it. : )

  4. says

    Oh Marian, I’m so glad Linda pointed us to your post. Yes, these words do provide hope and perspective. I feel less alone and more understood. Thank you. Love, kindness, and acceptance is so what we need. We need to be more like Jesus. My heart broke for your little niece. And it has broken many times over this election period as I heard of the vulnerable being trampled on. Your encouragement to “let the power and presence and hope of Jesus lead you into broken places” touches my heart. Thank you so much! Blessings and hugs to you!

  5. Meredith says

    I can’t tell you how much your article calmed my heart and soul. You put into words what is truly in my heart for my children to learn. The amount of hate and venom spewed from ALL sides of this election has been frightening and so sad.

    Thank you so much. I may actually sleep a little better tonight.

  6. Jaena says

    I followed the link to your blog that Genetta Cockrell Herrera posted on Facebook and was pleasantly surprised to find I knew the author. :) This is beautifully written, Marian. Thanks for sharing practical suggestions mixed with personal stories and examples. I, too, did not vote for either candidate but feel a sense of grief and a heaviness when I consider what this means for the future of so many. I look forward to reading more from you!

  7. Lara Bowman says

    Thank you for these beautiful words! I want to save this whole post but the words I have already written on my heart for all future interactions are… “Seek to listen in such a way that it’s easy to understand why people feel the way they do, even if you don’t agree”. The world can certainly use more kindness and compassion. Thank you for inspiring it with your insight and your incredible gift with words.

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