Which Side Are You On?

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One week into the new year and there is already so much one can be anxious and/or angry about. But, I promised myself in this new year to focus my mind and my voice on the positive. So, I’m not going to rant and rail about the House ethics debacle. I’m going to instead give a shout-out to all of the citizens who flooded their representatives’ offices with complaints and—lo and behold—got a senseless decision overturned in record speed.

I’m not going to pile on singer Kim Burrell, who sang one of the songs for the film Hidden Figures and was disinvited from Ellen Degeneres’ show after she made homophobic comments. Instead, I’m going to focus on Ellen’s authenticity and her guest musician Pharrell Williams, who is a composer and producer for Hidden Figures. Williams did appear on the show and he spoke eloquently about how we all need to condemn hate speech and how we also need to increase our empathy.

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Pharrell Williams is right. We all get to choose what side we are on. We all get to decide what we are willing to fight for. What we are willing to stand up for. Speak out for. What we as people fundamentally care about.

Fighting FOR something is very different than fighting AGAINST something. It’s a different mentality. It comes from a different place inside of you.

Last year, there was so much attention around what certain people were fighting against. It felt, as I’ve written before, divisive, angry and mean.

When people stand up and say this is what I’m for—when they offer a vision that is hopeful, inclusive, positive, and aspirational—it’s so much more exhilarating.

As we head into this new year, I hope we can each think about what we are FOR, as opposed to what we are against. I know that I want to live in a country that looks at itself as a family. One where we are all seen and accepted, and where everyone is expected to contribute to its greater common good.

And, when we see something we don’t agree with, or something that troubles our hearts or our minds—like that deeply disturbing Facebook video of four young people beating up a mentally disabled man—my hope is that we will stand up and use our voices quickly, efficiently and collectively. Just like my brother Timothy did.

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In this new year, may we each ask ourselves: What am I for? Which side am I on? What do I stand for? How we individually and collectively answer that question will tell us a lot about where we are going in 2017.

What I’m Carrying With Me Into This New Year

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Happy New Year!

These are the first days of 2017, a whole new year. Amazing, isn’t it?

We have a chance to make this New Year our best year yet — personally, professionally, and politically.

On December 31, I wrote down all of the things I want to bury, burn or just stop bitching about moving forward. I also made a list of all of the positive things in my life that I want to carry with me into 2017.

What I Want to Bury:

That critical voice in my head. I want to remove it once and for all. It’s so judgmental, so boring and so not accurate.

My fear. I want to grab my fear by the you know what. It’s got no place in my life in 2017. Time is running short and fear keeps me running in place. I’m burying it.

Comparisons. Even though I know that absolutely nothing good comes from making comparisons, I’ve still engaged in them. No more.

Control. I’m also letting this go. It doesn’t work anyway. I can’t control what people think, say or do, so I’m getting out of that ridiculous business.

What I Want to Carry With Me into the New Year: 

My gratitude practice. Every morning, I thank God for my faith, my family, my friends and my health. I want to keep doing that.

My meditation practice. I want to get better at this because it makes me better at life.

My mental and physical health. I want to really make them a priority and really set aside time for both. They go together and they both deserve a practice.

My mission. I want to be bolder with my mission in 2017. Two-thirds of all brains diagnosed with Alzheimer’s belong to women and no one knows why. That’s terrifying and unacceptable. I believe I can play a role in getting to the bottom of this, and in doing so, help millions of families. I know I need help doing this, so I’m going to bury my ego and keep reaching out to ask for help, even when I’m told to go away.

My voice. I also want to be bolder with my voice. I’m a journalist, but I’m also a citizen of this great country. I’m so over hearing about how smart Putin is. Like, so over it! I’m over hearing about what sore losers some people are. I want to hear more positive, uplifting messages that move us forward. Not just some of us. Not just women. Not just people of one color. All of us. I don’t care what party you belong to or don’t belong to. I don’t care who you voted for or whether you voted at all. Let’s leave all of that behind us. It was divisive, mean, and detrimental to humanity.

Let’s move forward. Let’s be positive. Let each of us think about how we can move humanity forward — one person and one idea at a time. We all have a role to play. We can all be of service. We can all be a part of elevating our dialogue, our responses and our behaviors.

At The Sunday Paper and MariaShriver.com, we believe that 2017 will be an extraordinary year. We want, as always, for this place to be a positive space. A place where we elevate the ideas and the voices of those who are trying to move humanity forward. That’s our mission and our purpose. We believe that individuals like you can have a positive and direct impact on our personal discourse, our professional discourse and on our political discourse.

This is a new year. It’s a new chance for all of us to use our voices for good. That’s what Architects of Change do — challenge what is, imagine what can be and move humanity forward.

That’s what I’m thinking about. What about you?

Finding Your Unique Purpose in the World

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what constitutes a real and meaningful life.

What are the pillars that need to be in place? What has to be clear in our hearts and our minds so that we can not only feel good, but do good in the world as well?

The truth is, I believe without a shadow of a doubt that we are all here on this planet to do good. To fight darkness. To call out injustices. To move humanity forward.

That’s not sweet, soft, or simply a cute slogan. It’s a real hardcore truth and mission, grounded in a firm and passionate belief system. Building a meaningful life is both difficult and simple. I believe you have to be passionate about it and purposeful. Disciplined and focused. You have to check in with yourself regularly and repeatedly.

You have to ask yourself: What is my mission? Am I in alignment? Is my intention clear? How and where do I want to move the needle? What do I want my life to stand for? Who is the company I keep?

Over the course of my own life, I have answered these questions in different ways at different times. As I’ve grown—as I have experienced different life experiences—some things have shifted and some things have stayed the same.

What has never shifted is my belief that I am here for a purpose bigger than myself. I used to be afraid of saying that because I thought it sounded arrogant. But, I’ve come to understand that it’s not arrogant at all. We are all here for a purpose that’s bigger than ourselves. Each one of us is unique. Therefore, our purpose in the world is unique to who we are. I’m not here to be like you, nor are you here to be like me.

Do you know why you are here? Do you know your mission?

A few weeks ago, I shared a Hopi Elder poem that I love. What really keeps resonating with me from that poem is the line, “This is the hour.” This is indeed the hour. I feel that now more than ever. This is the hour to check in with ourselves.

Am I living a meaningful life? Is my home aligned with my work? Are my friends aware of my purpose? Am I really living a life that matters?

Over the Christmas holiday, I am going to take a digital break. I want to get away from all of the noise that I hear on social media and on TV. I want to get away from what feels like one big reality show. I want to spend some time asking myself important life questions so that I can begin the New Year in alignment. At the end of the day, it’s up to me to create a life that is in balance. It’s up to me to know my mission. It’s up to me to decide what matters and who matters. It’s up to me to build the meaningful life I want to live. Life is fragile. I’m aware of that more and more every day.

This is indeed THE HOUR, and I want to make the hour matter. So, I’m going to take a digital break so that I can quiet my mind and focus on what I’m building with the blessed time I have on this Earth.

You can still count on a Sunday Paper next Sunday on Christmas morning. We will celebrate our Architects of Change of the Year, recognizing them for all of the hard work they are doing to move humanity forward. Their work is a gift to me, and to all of us, because they are moving us forward in a conscious, compassionate, and caring manner. The following Sunday on New Year’s Day, we will look ahead together and share inspiring thoughts from our community.

Happy holidays. I hope you have a blessed and safe Christmas and New Year.

 

The Problem With Fake News

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I grew up in a public family where rumors were a part of life. I don’t know if that’s what led me to my career in journalism, but I do know I was always interested in what was true and what wasn’t.

I understand that what’s true for me and what’s true for you can be different depending on our set of beliefs, how we were raised and our experiences. That said, facts are facts. They don’t lie. That is what is at stake in this spread of “fake news.”

I have begun to encounter it quite a bit in discussions with people I know who say, “Did you see this or that? Did you hear what so and so did? Did you read the latest…?” Often times, I’ll ask,“Where did you get that?” and they don’t know. Or, it’s several sources removed from wherever it originated. Most troubling, it’s often times an exaggeration, a distortion or even a total fabrication without them realizing it until they were told.

This is a dangerous trend, but it’s also an opportunity for all of us to become reporters ourselves and fact-check our sources—be they websites, individuals or social media. We should fact-check ourselves before we spread stories that we can’t corroborate as truth.

Just this week, Pope Francis said misinformation is probably the greatest damage that the media can do. He went on to not only caution the media, but to caution all of us to think twice about the penchant for covering scandals and covering nasty things—even if they are true.

I was also relieved to see President-Elect Trump fire Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s son from his inner circle after he spread an insane rumor about Hillary Clinton. But, it took a violent moment (which occurred because of the fake story) to get everyone’s attention about what he and others were spreading. (Note to the President-Elect: please monitor his father’s Twitter feed as well, as his tweets could be even more dangerous.)

The truth is, it shouldn’t have to go as far as Pizzagate to get our national attention. Rumors and bullying are hurtful. Trust me, I get that. I know they are almost impossible to curtail in this voracious news cycle, but fake news is dangerous to our national reputation, our national justice system and perhaps most importantly, to our national security.

So, before everyone lumps all of the media into a disaster bin, let’s take a beat. Real solid journalism—a journalism of facts, a free journalism—has never been more needed or more important. We all have a chance to support organizations that believe in facts and to support reporters who do their jobs based upon the truth. We all have a role in giving power to truth in our homes, in our social and professional conversations, and in our political discourse. It impacts our judicial system, our political system, our free press, and at the end of the day, who we are as human beings and as Americans.

We can see the world through our own eyes, but we can’t make up our own facts.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week. What about you?

Why We Need Time to Think and Reflect

Woman looking cityscape from the roof of a tall building in Bangkok.

While visiting Sacramento, CA, this week (where I was inducted into California’s Hall of Fame), I had the opportunity to speak with two great public servants. One Democrat. One Republican. Both men who I deeply admire.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and George Shultz (former U.S. Secretary of State, Secretary of the Treasury and Secretary of Labor… I mean, wow), are two men who have seen a lot and done even more. They are gracious and generous in sharing words of wisdom.

We had a wonderful conversation about politics (yes, we did). We spoke about our country, our new president-elect, about the value of experience, about the power of words and about the danger of empty threats.

But what struck most during our conversation, and what I wanted to share, was that both of these men spoke to me separately about how important it has been throughout their careers and lives to allocate uninterrupted time in their busy days. Uninterrupted time to think, to be, and to reflect. Both of them went on to explain how difficult it is to safeguard that time, but also how critical it has been to their thinking and their ability to create and lead.

I loved that simple, but profound advice. No matter how busy you are, carve out time in your day to think. To be calm. To reflect. To be present.

I’m grateful that they both mentioned that advice to me right before I went to the Hall of Fame ceremony because it helped me stay present. It helped me stay in the moment. It allowed me to take in what was actually happening in my life at that moment.

As I sat on the stage looking out, I was overcome with gratitude. Gratitude to my parents, gratitude to my family, and gratitude to all who have helped me in my life. There are so many people who have helped me, and who continue to help me in so many ways. Being present also allowed me to take in the love that I felt was, and is, there for me in my life. I didn’t push it away like I might have done in the past. I let it in and it felt beautiful.

It was a moment in my life I will never forget because I was present for it. When I went back to my hotel that night, I made a vow to myself. I promised to create more empty space in my days. More time to think. To dream. To be calm. To just be, so that I can be more present in my own life.

I think we are at a unique moment in our fast-paced, ever-changing world. I think our world needs us all to be more present in it. To be calmer. To be more reflective. More creative.

I think all of us could take a beat before we react to every tweet, every post and every conversation. I think our national discourse and our personal discourses are in need of the same things: Breathing space. Thinking space. Presence.

If we each made an effort to carve that out in our daily lives, I have no doubt that our interactions with one another would be different. I have no doubt that we would see different things, hear different things, and realize different things. I have no doubt that we would show up in our lives in a different way, speak up in a different way and perhaps move our country forward together in the way that we all say we want to do.

So, I’m going to take the advice of two great public servants who have worked across the aisle, and who continue to work to make the world a more conscious, more collaborative, and more caring place. They are men of ideas, men of thought… and busy men who make time to not be busy.

That’s something worth thinking about.

‘We Are the Ones We’ve Been Waiting For’

'We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For'

In the last few days, I’ve tried to spend less time thinking and more time reflecting. Not just reflecting back, but reflecting on how I want to move my life forward.

I know I want to move forward with hope. I want to move forward with faith. I want to move forward with conviction, with passion and with purpose. I know I want to use my voice clearly and confidently on behalf of the people and issues that I care about. I want to use it to elevate others who are using their lives to Move Humanity Forward. I want to use it to move the needle forward when it comes to understanding the mind and why we are losing so many beautiful minds to Alzheimer’s. This disease is wiping out our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, our brothers, our fathers, and our families. It’s wiping them out financially, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I firmly believe that we can wipe out this mind-blowing disease, and I will not rest until we do so. I do this because each of us can play a role in creating a more caring, conscious and compassionate world.

In fact, I don’t find myself discouraged by the enormity of that challenge. I find myself invigorated by it because I believe the goal is attainable. On the wall in my office hangs a poem that deeply inspires me every time I read it. In fact, it moves me to get moving. It gives me a sense of urgency and it speaks to my heart and to my mind.

It’s written by a Hopi Elder, and I loved it the moment I discovered it. Why? Because it speaks to the urgency of the hour. It speaks to the leader that lives in each of us. It speaks to the power of the individual and the need for community.

And perhaps most importantly, it challenges us not to sit by and wait for another to lead us forward. It calls on each of us to believe that we are in fact the ones we have been waiting for.

This is the hour, it tells us. And there are things to be considered.

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So, if you find yourself at this moment in your life reflecting on what was and what is, take a page from the Hopi Elder. Speak your truth. At this time in our history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.

I agree that all that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration. I agree that the time of the lone wolf is over. We are indeed the ones we have been waiting for. As this holiday weekend comes to a close and a new holiday season begins, I hope that we can all remember that profound truth.

That’s what I’m reflecting about, thinking about, and inspired by this week. What about you?

What I’m Grateful for This Thanksgiving

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Almost everywhere I went this past week, I heard a lot of soul-searching. I heard continued disbelief and continued anger from people who voted for Clinton and/or Trump. I heard people who were baffled that others didn’t seem to understand, or had mischaracterized what they thought to be true.

I had friends who invited me to gatherings saying, “We are organizing. Will you come?” I would say, “Organizing to do what?” They would respond, “We don’t know yet, but we have to do something.”

Do we? Or might this be a moment to sit in what I refer to as a place of unknowing?

In my life, I have been certain about some things and uncertain about others. I have felt strong. I have felt vulnerable. I have seen the path ahead clearly, and at other times, I have stood at a crossroads, unsure of which path to take. At moments like those, I have learned that it’s okay to sit or stand in my unknowing. I’ve learned that it’s okay to pause—to wait to breathe—so that the answer and my knowing can rise up to meet me. I’ve also learned in times of uncertainty or unknowing to direct my focus to what I am clear and certain about, to what I do know.

What I do know is this: This upcoming week is my favorite week of the year. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s about knowing what’s important in life: family, friends, my faith, and food. I could even throw in watching football because that will be going on a lot in my house this week (Go Blue!).

Thanksgiving is about gratitude. It’s about gathering. It’s not about wrapping and/or unwrapping presents. It’s about being present in our loved ones’ lives. It’s also such a uniquely American holiday. I’ve often had people at my table who weren’t born here, and who weren’t raised on this holiday, but who have come to love it because it’s about being welcomed to the table. It’s about acceptance. It’s about being invited in. That’s powerful.

So if you are still reeling from our election, or if you are wanting to gather or organize, gather first at the table. Invite people in. Gather with people you love and care about. Listen. Learn. Love. Focus on what you know makes you feel good, and what makes you feel certain. Focus on your gifts. Focus on your gratitude.

I know that’s easier for some than others. But I’ve learned that focusing my attention forwar—on what I’m grateful for, and on all of the love that exists in my life—helps me focus on all the good that is around me in my home. At my table, in my life, and, yes, in my country. There is so much good in our beautiful country.

Today—right now—it’s okay not to know, and to know, all at the same time. That’s life, and I’m thinking about how grateful I am to have one that I know is blessed.

That’s what I’m thinking about this week. What about you?

Talk of Love, Not Hate

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“Talk of love, not hate. Things to do. It’s getting late. I’ve so little time and I’m only passing through.”

Those are the words of singer-songwriter and poet Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Thursday during this tumultuous week.

My brother Bobby shared his words with me as I sat struggling with what to write this week. Leonard Cohen’s words are perfect—perfect for me, and I hope, perfect for you.

“Talk of love, not hate. Things to do. It’s getting late.”

So little time, and it’s true, we are all just passing through. So, on this day, I’m choosing to follow Leonard Cohen’s words. There is so much we can all do to move humanity forward. There is so much we can all do to be the ones we have been waiting for. There is so much to do.

We are a divided country. Millions feel invisible, left out, forgotten. Millions more are scared, angry, and confused. Millions cheered this election. Millions more are outraged. Yet here we all are.

We have a choice to talk of love or hate. To give up or get things done. To find purpose or to throw in the towel. To scream and yell, or stop and listen. To reach out or close down.

We are indeed all just passing through, but I don’t believe that we aren’t meant to make that time matter. Each of us is meant for a distinct purpose and I believe that purpose is to make our world more caring, more conscious, and, yes, more compassionate.

How can you do that? By seeing yourself as an instrument of peace. By seeing yourself as someone whose light is what the world is looking for. By seeing yourself as an architect of change. By seeing yourself as someone who can move humanity forward.

So, if you’re feeling down, confused, or shaken this week, read the Prayer of Saint Francis (click here). If you’re feeling elated, vindicated, or boastful, read the Prayer of Saint Francis.

May each of us—regardless of what party we belong to or candidate we voted for —think about spreading love, not hate. May each of us think about how to spend our days here making other people’s days better.

And while you’re at it, may you absorb these other words of Leonard Cohen’s: “I greet you from the other side of sorrow and despair. With a love so vast and shattered, it will reach you everywhere.”

Greet someone from the other side. Greet them with a love so vast that it will reach them everywhere. It’s getting late.

That’s what I’m thinking about this week. What about you?

My Birthday Gift to Myself

Happy Birthday on fondant topped cookie on sprinkles

Today is my birthday. I was born in Chicago, IL, now home to the World Series champions!

The Cubs winning the World Series this week was THE bright spot in what felt like an otherwise dark, depressing week. I’m usually a pretty upbeat person, but I’ve gotta say, this past week—with all the divisiveness, the insanity, the anxiety, and the screaming—well, it got me down.

I actually haven’t been down or nervous this whole campaign season, but this week I have to admit that there was a day when I didn’t even want to leave my house. Everywhere I went, people would say things like, “Oh my God! Have you seen that latest poll? Did you hear what they are saying now? Did you see what that email said? Oh my God! What’s happening? What do you think is going to happen?”

Gosh, people!

In times of crisis and panic, I make an appointment with God. (Yup.) I check in with God daily anyway, but this past week, I checked in several times per day because everyone’s anxiety was spilling over onto me and I don’t care for that (especially since it’s my birthday).

He said (yes I say he!), “Tell the people to breathe.”

I said, “I already wrote about that. It’s not working.”

He said, “Well then tell them to be silent.”

I said, “I wrote about that too, and everyone just keeps screaming. If you don’t believe me, just turn on the TV.”

“God,” I said, “Give me something new. Give me something I haven’t said, because I’ve been writing about breathing and silence and the mystics and the Jesuits and the process of discernment and people still aren’t calm and still aren’t hopeful. They are panicking. What more can I share?”

I got silence. I got nothing.

Not good, I thought. So, I did what any nervous, anxious Catholic would do. I went to my back-up: the Pope.

Yes, when in doubt, I go and check out whatever Pope Francis is riffing about. It’s bound to be interesting. It’s bound to change your perspective.

Lo and behold, this week Pope Francis was talking about the Sermon on the Mount. (He also riffed on the fact that women will never become priests! Lord, I’ll deal with this ridiculous stained glass ceiling another week, after the other ceiling comes crashing down next week.)

But, back to the Sermon on the Mount. The pope has actually added some new, updated challenges/beatitudes for our modern times.

Now before you freak and say, “I’m not Catholic. I don’t believe.” Trust me here. You don’t have to be Catholic to get some solid life lessons from The Sermon on the Mount.

So today on my birthday, my gift to myself (and to you) is to re-read the Sermon on the Mount.

“Blessed are the peacemakers” is one. I’m sure there are at least a few beatitudes that will work for you. Read the originals, and also check out how the Pope modernized them (see here).

Then ask yourself, what could/would you add for these turbulent times? What could/would you add that would bring peace to your turbulent mind?

What could/would you add that would make you feel it’s all going to be okay? Because it is all going to be okay.

Just remember: Breathe in. Breathe out. Discern. Decide. Seek silence. Seek peace. And vote! For God’s sake, don’t forget to vote. It’s a gift!

That brings me back to my birthday. On this day, I’m grateful for so many gifts. The gift of my life. The gift of my health. The gift of my faith. The gifts of my friends and family who I know love me. The gift of living in the greatest country on Earth. The gift of my four incredible children and the gift of being able to vote.

Just writing out everything I’m grateful for makes me feel better already, and I’m 61. I’m 61? Oh my God. Now I’m depressed and it has nothing to do with the election.

I’m going back to my room and re-watch the Cubs clinch the title. That will make me forget about my age and the election.

Happy birthday to myself!

Finding Peace in Your Decisions

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In the last few weeks, I’ve written about the power of silence, the importance of taking a breath, the art of listening, and the mystics (yes, the mystics).

Today, I want to take a page from the Jesuits (yes, the Jesuits). I was educated and deeply shaped by the Catholic sisters and by the Jesuits. Pope Francis is one of the individuals I admire most in the world, not just because he is a Jesuit, but because of the way he walks his talk, lives his life, speaks his mind, and embraces change.

When faced with difficult decisions or life-altering change, the Jesuits have a process to help guide them to the answer. Devised by Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, it’s called the discernment process (see here). The process of discernment walks you through a step-by-step process that’s meant to help you come to the decision that is right for you.

The truth is, some of us are better than others at making decisions. Some make snap decisions. Some labor forever, weighing the pros and cons. Some take too many other people’s opinions and feelings into account (that would be me). And some just know how to deliberate, discern and decide.

I share this process of discernment today because so many people I’ve spoken to lately about the election tell me that they are struggling. Struggling to decide. Struggling with whether to vote or not. Struggling with what’s right or wrong for them and/or for the country.

Making big decisions is tough for everyone. So, I thought, why not take a page from the Jesuits and follow the age-old, tried-and-true formula: the process of discernment. I’ve used it myself, and I’m using it to make other decisions (although not about this election, because I’m very clear about that decision). I’ve found the process illuminating and helpful in times of turbulent change or indecision in my own life.

All of us who have the opportunity to vote for the next president of the United States have a personal decision to make. It can be hard with all of the noise and back and forth to know what to do. All I know is that this great country of ours has always been a melting pot—different religions, races, and political affiliations—living together in pursuit of the common good. It’s important at this time to remember that there is a common good, there is common ground, and there are common dreams we all share.

So, before you lose your mind in reaction to someone who is voting differently than you, or who tells you that they’re not voting at all, remember what I wrote about the mystics. The mystics go to a place beyond words. They go to that wordless space, that place within all of us. It is there, they believe, that we all meet our compassionate, loving, honest, non-judgmental selves.

In this final week before Election Day, get quiet and clear about your own decision, your own vote. Get clear about your own process. And if you’re still struggling— if you still feel undecided— check out the Jesuits’ discernment. I share it with the goal of simply helping you to find clarity and peace in these turbulent times.

Discern. Decide. Be at peace with your decision and allow others to be the same.