Trump v. Clinton Got You Down? Here are 10 things you could do right now to have a significant impact on the culture around you, and none of them involve presidential politics.
1. Have your neighbors over for dinner
If there is any hope that our global society will learn to live together in mutual respect and love, it will start at the neighborhood level. Learning that more unites us than divides us takes intentionality and time. So, sponsor a potluck in your neighborhood or building one night a month. Share a meal with people you don’t know very well. Invite those who are not like you—of a different race, religion, or nationality. Be more curious. Hold conversations, not in order to pass judgment or set each other straight, but to learn about and appreciate each other. It take practice to make space for those who are different from us without needing to change, condemn, or set them straight.
2. Pick someone to forgive
Forgiveness is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Un-forgiveness is powerful, too. What’s the old proverb? Un-forgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Who do you need to forgive? Picture yourself walking down a long hallway with a door at each end. You are a few steps into your walk through when the door at the other end opens and a person heads your way. Who do you least want that person to be? That’s how you decide who you really need to forgive. BTW, if you are reading this and I’ve done you wrong or you are angry with me, maybe you could pick me as your person to forgive? I promise you that I’ll be so very grateful.
3. Stop watching cable news
24-hour cable news networks such as Fox News, MSNBC, & CNN are completely toxic to your soul. These networks foment and prey upon nothing more than fear and blaming. They sensationalize stories and distort reality in order to gain viewership for their political blood-sport and social negativity. Watching is like purchasing a ticket to the Roman Coliseum. These programs train us to demonize and despise. These networks need us to be all riled up because they feed off ratings, and riled up people watch. Cable news channels don’t care if they help to destroy our society as long as they are making money. Even in small doses, that sort of imbalanced, distorted thinking will poison our minds. Check out of it. Refuse to watch and you’ll have a much happier life.
4. Be generous
Find non-profit organizations that are doing really good work in your community and support them with your time and money. Look for organizations that are not attached to a political agenda. Try to find something that you genuinely care about, something you want to spend time on because it’s important to you—homelessness, unwed mothers, immigration reform, or the like. So much of the boots-on-the-ground goodness that is pushing back the darkness in our world comes at the local not-for-profit level. Find a place to engage and give it your best.
5. Get off Facebook
I know this will be unpopular, but I’m sticking to it. Facebook is not a net-gain for our society. It’s become the primary theater for histrionics and social carping, not to mention envy, self-loathing, and wasting mountains of time. As a means for posting family updates and vacation photos Facebook is a fine platform. As a means for encouraging genuine dialogue on complex issues between opposing points of view (especially politics), it is a disaster. Is the cost worth the benefit? I don’t think so. Every Facebook user should commit to taking long breaks—two to four weeks at a time, several times a year—during which they fast from the platform. Many of us need to delete our accounts and be done with it. In most cases, doing so would enhance the person’s quality of life.
There is literally no scenario that involves you being a happy and healthy person that does not involve some sort of healthy physical exercise. Everything you do involves your body. Every single interaction you have with this world of people, places, things, and ideas happens in and through your body. When your body gives out, you give out. You have to take care of it. Eat right. Exercise. Stay active. Get off the couch and begin some sort of habitual workout schedule.
7. Chase emotional health
Most people I meet who are struggling make the same mistake. They are seeking political or spiritual solutions to emotional and relational problems. Emotional problems have emotional solutions. Genuine relational wholeness only comes when mature adults face their brokenness in order to change and grow. For many of us, this will require some sort of weekly practice of spiritual direction or psychotherapy. If you have been in emotional or relational distress for more than six months, then find yourself a counselor. Go every week for six months before you even begin to evaluate whether or not it’s a worthy practice.
8. Join a small church and live in fidelity
There is no version of healthy that does not involve learning to live in fidelity to a small community of people over long periods of time. With our culture’s constant mobility, finding rootedness and stability is a challenge. How can you do it? Join a small faith community and worship with them every single week. Don’t let anything deter you from that commitment—not kids sports, not grown children who join a nearby congregation, not disappointment with the pastor, not conflict with other members, not the quest for doctrinal purity, not the need to be part of a winning team, not anything. My one caveat is this: don’t join a church that seems intent on being upwardly mobile, or one that treats you like a customer to which they want to provide religious goods and services. Find a small congregation and give the next three decades of your life to living in fidelity to these people.
9. Read a good book
I have a bee in my bonnet about this… You know how many weeks books by the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity spend atop the best seller lists? It’s pathetic! We’ve got to start reading good books again, people. By good I mean almost anything not written by TV personalities. O’Reilly is a terrible historian and Sean Hannity doesn’t even have a college degree for Pete’s sake. You want politics? Read Lord of the Flies, and you’ll know a lot more about the American political scene. You want to understand the dangers of income inequality? Read Dickens. You want to learn to be a better parent? Read Huck Finn, Call of the Wild, or The Wind in the Willows. You want to explore race? Read To Kill a Mockingbird. You want to grow as a human being, read classic fiction. I’m talking Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Twain. Popular fiction and nonfiction alike have so much going for them. Stay away from the ideologues and right wing nut jobs, and read, read, read.
10. Recycle everything you can
It could be that one of the most important aspects of your everyday life, the one that will matter the most and the longest, involves your relationship to consumer goods. Specifically, I’m talking about how much of what you consume ends up in a landfill v. a recycling center. If you are able to think: yeah, I throw away most of my plastic instead of recycling it; this is bad, but these chickens won’t come home to roost until the people I know and love are long gone. This is problematic on so many levels. Mostly it succeeds in making you a more selfish person. So do yourself and those you love a favor. Recycle everything you can. Use less gasoline. Support clean energy, and maybe your grandchildren will be able to take a deep breath without coughing when they reach your age.