A while ago, a horrible thing happened to me. Someone I trusted used, abused and violated my personhood, while I was undergoing chemo in a life-threatening fight with breast cancer.
It took me years to get over it. Years of tears. Countless questions. And hours upon hours of quality therapy.
I kept asking my therapist how I could get past it. How I could move forward when it was impossible to go back and change the past. How I could live with a terrible stain that could never be erased. How I could live in a world where such injustice was possible…tolerated, even.
“You live your life well,” my therapist said. “Because the way you live your life is your way of voting how the world should be.”
And in those words I found the peace, the forgiveness, the strength I needed to move forward.
I forgave because I think the world needs more forgiveness.
I befriended a refugee family because I think that marginalized, invisible people need to be seen with love and dignity.
I started a college fund for these five little Somali sisters, and I’ve willed my house to them, because I think the world needs more engaged, intelligent, powerful women to lead it.
I love on my nephews and niece as often as I can because I think children should be reminded as often as possible that they are amazing and unique and necessary.
I practice medicine in the U.S. and in developing countries around the world because I think the world needs as many compassionate healers as it can get.
I write because I think the world needs voices that remind us to prize love and compassion above all else.
I don’t do it perfectly, but I try to do it well: I try to vote with my life for the way I think the world should be.
But it isn’t enough.
It isn’t enough to cast a ballot once every two years. It isn’t enough to associate with a political party and conclude that our work is done. It isn’t enough to assume that God prefers one political party over another and that if we congregate on that side, we’ve somehow not only pleased, but represented, God.
Ballots are a great start, but ballots and poll booths and election days will never be enough.
My therapist was spot-on: We have to vote not only with our ballots, but also with our lives.
With each word.
With each action.
With each glance.
With each encounter.
With each touch.
With every single thing we do, every single day, we can cast a vote for the way the world should be.
We can vote for Love.
We can vote for Compassion.
We can vote for Forgiveness.
We can vote for everyone’s voice to be heard.
We can vote for women who have been discriminated against.
We can vote for people of color who have been oppressed.
We can vote for refugees and immigrants to be welcomed as our guests.
We can vote for justice to be served.
We can vote to keep entitled white men from abusing people with their power.
Friends, today, by all means, vote with your ballot. Your voice matters, and people have fought and died to give you the right to use it.
But don’t stop there.
Don’t just vote with your ballot. Choose every single day to vote with your life. To make the world not more of what it is, but more of what it was meant to be.