Two years ago, I was a man marooned on an island of solitude and adversity. After losing everything and trying to figure out how I could muster the will to reboot my life for version 2.0, I was shrouded by a pervasive sense of hopelessness. The future seemed daunting and the past only visited upon me melancholy. Anxiety over the unknown and distress about my crucibles buried me deep into the abyss of unending sorrows.
During this most vexing time of my life, I was fortunate enough to cross paths with a chaplain named Jason who made it a practice to walk with the broken instead of preaching from a distance. I met with him on a weekly basis; during our second conversation, he asked me what I was passionate about. Anyone who has felt the kiss of depression knows that the hardest question to answer is “what do you like to do” once despondence envelops our souls.
Unable to think of anything off the top of my head, I told Jason that I used to like to write. The next week, Jason gave me a pen and a pad. He told me to write; I pushed back and told him that I had nothing worthy to scribe about. He smiled and said “write your name, start from there without worrying about what comes next.”
That night, I did as he counseled and wrote my name. From that moment on, each day I wrote more and more and each day the task became a little less burdensome. The passion I lost in the haze of grief came flooding back; writing became my purpose and gave me a reason to hope beyond my present circumstance. What started in my notepad transitioned to Facebook as I wrote about culture, politics, history and beyond. After seeing suffering that transcended identities and ideologies, I was convicted to write in ways that unified and disavowed the social and political divides.
One of the missives I wrote on Facebook was about the value and fortitude of women and how society devalues their worth. The write up was noticed by a friend online, she was moved by essay and complimented my writing style. Betty encouraged me to write less on Facebook and to start a website. The Ghion Journal was her idea; she motivated me to think beyond the limitations I had placed on my mind.
I write these things in light of the acrimonious nature of our culture and the way antipathy is splintering us apart. I’ve been reflecting over the past couple of days on ways we can make a difference in our time. I’ve arrived at a conclusion, focusing on politics is leading us astray from the change we all want. Moreover, iniquities will not be erased in a big bang nor will justice arrive overnight. We can make the world a better place and leave our imprint not through upheavals but with small acts of kindness and exuding love to friends, family and strangers alike. Click To Tweet
Though far from a guru who has figured out life, I have learned this one important lesson over the years even though I often repeat the same mistakes that led to this education. In life, you become what you dedicate your energy to. By proximity and through osmosis, we manifest in our souls the things we consume and pay attention to the most. The more time we invest ingesting the spite that is churned into the ether, the more we poison our spirits with hostility. Fighting contempt by being contemptuous is no way to heal within nor mend the brokenness of the world.
It is easy to get caught up in the madness of it all and be led into thinking we are making a difference by adding logs of fury onto the flames that is searing our world. The ego is a bedeviling companion in this way, in the quest to assuage our pride, we can let our hearts be subsumed by resentment. It is better to be like Jason and Betty and give encouragement to others who struggle than it is to pour gasoline on the fire.
I say this without piety nor is my aim to preach to others, this is a note to myself as much as it is to the readers. Over the past year, I’ve received a lot of attention and followers due in large part to the articles I write about our duplicitous political system. But the more I write about the hypocrisy of leaders and the greed of the elites, the further I was getting from the light that led me out of darkness. Being enraged about global injustice while overlooking the suffering taking place locally will condemn us to indifference and cynicism.
I’m not advocating that we bury our heads in the sand and ignore the injustices of this world. However, being fixated on the ugliness of the world and not paying attention to the small details that make life beautiful is an act of self-harm. Humility is needed, none of us can redeem this world on our own. It takes collective action and connective kindness to bend society away from loathing and towards love and healing. Take a break from politics, push away from sensationalism and be kind to someone near you (including yourself). As a wise man once said, be the change you want to see in the world.
We have it in us to be angels towards one another or invert to our baser instincts and pass on pains to others. There are those who benefit the more society gets antagonized and driven into bitterness, the rest of us suffer for our decision to seek vengeance. The only way we can mend and heal this world in the process is if we choose to be the opposite of the hatred that is consuming our world. Perhaps we should gaze less into politics and instead seek justice through compassion. #ImperceptibleChange
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Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.