Maria’s Sunday Paper: The Power of Community
The other day, my brother Timothy spoke to a packed stadium as he opened the Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle.
As he talked about “taking a stand for inclusion,” everyone in the stadium rose to their feet. Tears filled their eyes. Hearts burst with inspiration. A friend who was there even told me that he left the stadium feeling more hopeful about humanity and our country than he had in ages.
Meanwhile that same night in Los Angeles, my friend Suzanne took her kids and a few friends to an open-air revival of the musical “Grease.” She said that she, too, was struck by the joy that filled the amphitheater. She, too, was moved by how easily everyone came together to enjoy themselves, to be kind to one another, and to be in community.
Like the event in Seattle, Suzanne told me that there were so many people at the concert in LA who were from different political parties. And yet, there they were, sitting side by side, sharing songs, sharing food, sharing their hearts, and feeling the love and the hope in the air together.
This got me thinking. Why can’t our politics do this same thing? Why can’t all of us fill a stadium and, in addition to cheering for the Special Olympics or a musical, we cheer for our country as well? I mean, who doesn’t want to feel hopeful about the future? Who doesn’t want to feel inspired in the present? Who doesn’t want to be in community?
There have been times in my life when I’ve felt really alone. But when I’m in community with others, that feeling falls away. There have also been times when I’ve gotten down about my country and my fellow citizens. But then I’ve gone to an event like the one in Seattle and bam! I’m re-energized. I feel alive and hopeful again. Why? Because I am reminded that we have common interests, common dreams, and common hopes.
I was reminded of this again this week as I watched the new documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” with my family. The film celebrates Fred Rogers and how he welcomed everyone with open arms. Through his PBS children’s show, Mr. Rogers taught us how to be gentle and how to be kind — with ourselves and with one another. His welcoming, humanitarian spirit is something we could use a lot more of these days — on TV, in our communities, in our conversations, and in our politics.
And so I ask, what might we all do to change our attitudes when it comes to politics and how we treat others? First, we can start by dropping our assumptions about the other. (I’ve learned assumptions are never a good thing.) Next, we can change our tones. I was struck by Mr. Rogers’ tone in all his conversations. No matter how complex or difficult the situation or the person, his tone didn’t change. That’s a lesson we can all learn, myself included. In fact, there have been times when I’ve found myself having a very pleasant conversation with another person, and then as soon as politics comes up, they turn into a different person. Perhaps I do, too.
I don’t want that to happen anymore, and I know that I have the power to stop it. I no longer want to mention the name of a certain person who seems to make people lose their minds. Nor do I want to use that person’s words to describe anyone or anything. It just perpetuates a false storyline and compounds the gas-lighting that’s going on.
You can’t feel free if you are confused. You can’t feel free if you are buying into someone else’s storyline or someone else’s take on what is. You can’t feel free if you’re caught up in someone else’s version of our great country.
So, do yourself a favor this summer. Turn down the noise. Turn down the heat. Turn down the rhetoric, and change the way that you interact with those around you or whom you meet. Try not to ask people what political party they belong to. Try not to ask them who they voted for. Try not to ask them their thoughts on you know who… Instead, ask them about their favorite movie. Ask them what song speaks to them. Or, take a page from Mr. Rogers and ask them about their feelings. Ask them about their joys, their hopes and their dreams. Ask them what makes them feel seen, accepted and supported. Ask them what makes them feel loved.
Then, turn and find someone to ask you those same questions. The experience — and the results — may just surprise you.
“I’ve Been Thinking… Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life:” A book of reflections for those seeking wisdom, guidance, encouragement, and inspiration on the road to a meaningful life.
WHAT OTHERS HAVE BEEN THINKING
The Architects of Change below will inspire you and make you think.
MARTHA BECK SHOWS US HOW TO CREATE COMMUNITY BY DOING WHAT WE LOVE
My dear friend and Sunday Paper columnist Marth Beck makes an annual pilgrimage to a South Africa to gather with a mixed community of people who all share a common vision. She shares her inspiring experience with you this morning in this exclusive essay for The Sunday Paper.
TIMOTHY SHRIVER INSPIRES US TO FOCUS ON WHAT WE ALL HAVE IN COMMON
As I mentioned in my essay, so many people were moved by the inspiring speech given by my brother Timothy Shriver at this year’s Special Olympics USA Games opening ceremony in Seattle. He reminds us to step back and focus on the qualities we all share as human beings.
JAN SHEPHARD ENCOURAGES US TO EXTEND OUR HEARTS TO THE HOMELESS COMMUNITY BY TAKING THEM OUT TO LUNCH
Santa Monica, CA, resident Jan Shepherd has made it her personal mission to offer healthy lunches and a friendly ear to the homeless in her community. What started as a conversation with one man on the street has turned into a series of meals and relationships built with individuals whose voices are rarely heard.
LINDSAY WILKES REFLECTS ON THE SPIRIT AND PROMISE OF AMERICA’S OPEN ROAD
Sunday Paper Editor Lindsay Wilkes enjoys spending her free time traveling to small towns and lesser-known locales. In her essay today, Lindsay celebrates the spirit of the open road and reminds us what we can learn about America by road-tripping around to different communities.
DR. STEVEN GUNDRY DISCUSSES HIDDEN DANGERS IN SO-CALLED ‘HEALTHY FOODS’
I found my conversation with Architect of Change Dr. Steven Gundry, author of “The Plant Paradox,” to be both informative and eye-opening. He explains that many of the foods we consider to be “healthy” may actually be doing us harm.
13-YEAR-OLD MACKENZIE HINSON OPENS FOOD PANTRY WHERE MEMBERS OF HER COMMUNITY CAN GROCERY SHOP WITH DIGNITY
After her mother suffered a stroke, Architect of Change of the Week Mackenzie Hinson saw how much her mother struggled to put food on the table. Appreciative of those who extended a hand to help her family, Mackenzie decided to make a difference herself by opening Make a Difference Food Pantry in her Mt. Olive, N.C., community.
Kenzie operates the food pantry with support from her parents and volunteers, as well as generous donations from individuals and organizations. She was recently profiled in Mike Rowe’s inspiring Facebook Watch series, “Returning the Favor.”
NEWS ABOVE THE NOISE
News stories that have us thinking…
1. Two Strangers Bond Over Street Basketball: I envision an inter-generational country where we play together, talk together and love alongside one another; a world in which age, race, and gender don’t matter. This story makes me believe that it’s possible. WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE
2. Aspirin Could Be Used to Help Treat Alzheimer’s: This is potentially exciting news. According to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the common drug was tested on mice that had a condition comparable to Alzheimer’s and yielded positive results.
3. Science May Soon Be Able to Preserve Fertility for Female Cancer Patients: Women who are diagnosed with cancer during their child-bearing years may not have to worry about it affecting their fertility. CNN reported this week on research out of Denmark that may be able to create “artificial ovaries” for these patients.
4. Enrolling Your Kids in Piano Lessons Benefits Their Brains: I’ve always found music to be good for the soul but it’s also good for the brain. According to a new research paper, “There’s evidence that early exposure to piano practice enhances the processing of sounds that extend not only from music, but also into language” during childhood development.
5. Dad Explains Why Raising Boys With Emotional Intelligence is Critical in Today’s World: This is an interesting piece by a father of two boys under 10 who offers sound advice on how to raise emotionally-healthy boys.
6. Coffee Shop Encourages Patrons to Talk About Mental Health: Yes, the world is full of good, caring people. The Sip of Hope coffee shop in Chicago is the world’s first coffee shop where 100% of the proceeds support proactive suicide prevention and mental health education. WATCH THEIR STORY IN THE VIDEO BELOW
As I mentioned in my essay, I recently saw the documentary about Fred Rogers called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” and was deeply moved by the experience. His words can really touch us all, which is why I thought I would share them for this week’s Sunday Reflection. If the film is playing in a theater near you, I highly encourage you to take your entire family to go see it. You can watch the trailer here.
INSPIRATION FOR THE WEEK AHEAD
SOMETHING TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND
HEART OF NUBA: I am so excited that this film, which I executive produced, is now streaming on Hulu. The film follows the story of American doctor Tom Catena, who has devoted his entire life to serving the forgotten people of the war-torn Nuba Mountains of Sudan.
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