The other day in a gas station, I experienced an uncomfortably familiar deflation of hope and happiness upon reading the array of headlines at the newspaper stand. As is often the current events case, the distressing sense of the surreal was second only to the distressing sense that this is all starting to meet expectations, as parcel to the existential bummer of now.
Then, on the facing wall, there was a bulletin board filled with homemade flyers and announcements of community events. Picnics, concerts, reading groups, babysitting, fundraisers, garage sales, tutoring services, parades, farmers markets, and so forth.
A man happened to walk past a moment after I absorbed the juxtaposition, so I decided to mention out loud my realization:
“I think this (gesturing to bulletin board) is a more accurate representation of us as a people than what I just felt so bad about reading over there.”
He said “oh! Huh. Okay.” And we had a friendly nod and resumed life. Perhaps it is worth mentioning that he happened to be an adult white male who likely was comfortably affording boat payments and the like, and was probably utterly unexpectedly being addressed as part of a collective WE by a woman of color.
And perhaps therein resides the hope and the point of the critical difference between the headlines of division and the everyday experience of meeting the days amongst one another in the places we actually live. That bulletin board speaks to the true value and potential of an America that still resides on this thin edge of peace and community and small events to look forward to and participate in.
What shall we be participants in? Internet toxicity stoked by anonymity? I hope and almost trust that the vast majority would prefer the world of everyday people represented on that bulletin board. No categories or labels or threats or inequities: just an invitation to join in something positive, and appreciate the days in proximity. Good will to all.