Gifts I wish to give

For my son’s birthday, I asked him if there’s something in particular he might like that he otherwise wouldn’t buy or ask for, and I can usually prod him into mentioning something for my consideration. This time, he said: “Ah….for my birthday….I want two things. But only two things.” Okay, I said, picking up a pen ready to write a note to self. “Are you ready?” he asked, and somehow in that moment, I absolutely knew what was coming next…..and I put the pen down and said “Yes.”

And that mother-son connection we have always had, proved instinctively right once again. He said exactly what I thought he would. “Peace in the world, and goodwill toward men.”

That’s all, he said, just peace and goodwill among people. And he meant it, though I smiled and said “Well, I’m working on it in my own way. But I’ll see what I can do…”

I’ve thought of and ‘written’ this post a number of times over recent weeks, especially as the new year dawned and people were wistfully making resolutions and bloggers were writing ‘year in reviews’ and ‘year ahead projections’ and all. But never quite got to it. So now is the time.

Dear Son,

In everything I do, every single day, I aim to be a bridge builder, a peacemaker, a unifier. We each have only a certain amount of influence on the world but are responsible for that and the best stewardship of that in the time we are given. I have been blessed with being given a voice in the media, print and broadcast, at this particular time in history when social communications is global, immediate and unprecedented in its reach. There may be people in the Himalayan mountains hearing or reading my words, as well as those I know are listening and reading them in Africa, South America, Europe, Asia, and even the man in the far reaches of Iceland who sent a postcard to say he picked up the signal on a certain night to hear my voice saying “Peace in the world starts with peace in your own heart. I wish you peace, friends, and I’ll talk to you soon.” I used to close my radio show with that sincere sentiment every day, and it was remarkable to learn how far it traveled.

So I’m reminded of that again now as you ask for the gift of peace on earth, and goodwill among people. I really am doing what I can. But we can all do better.

When I wrote this in my head around New Year’s weekend, the shooting in Tucson hadn’t happened yet and the country hadn’t yet erupted in a heated debate about civility, which is the oxymoron it sounds like. I was at a point of wanting to thank every person who came by this blog, or listened on radio, for their consideration of the news presented here and their interest in being informed and engaged. You know, Son, how hard I work to gather information as fully and accurately as I can and present it fairly and charitably and in the great tradition of intellectual reason.

Long before the recent media frenzy over ‘civil discourse’, I was writing about its decline and the need for its restoration and our responsibility in maintaining it. When people ask me which news media I favor, they may want to hear certain ‘niche’ markets that meet their ideological or political beliefs. But I always urge them to be broadly informed and prepared to make a defense for what they believe by hearing and understanding arguments with which they disagree. By now, many people know my motto is ‘Clarity with charity.’

People will nonetheless be angry or hostile or mean-spirited, but turn around and accuse others of those faults simply because they don’t agree. ‘Never render evil for evil.’ I believe in advancing the presumption of goodwill, assuming that people hold the views they do because they truly believe that’s what’s best for the common good, whether its grounded in reason, prevailing sentiment, personal emotions…or ungrounded at all. In our day, it’s easy to be misled by the currency of cultural values, which aren’t grounded in transcendent values. Even elite media get swept up in this drift.

People across the world are seeking and working for peace by following their belief in the Almighty, the transcendent values of human dignity and its divine origin. They exist, whether we believe in them or not. Life is short, eternity is forever. John of the Cross held that ‘at the end of life, we will be judged on love.’  Which has been translated to ‘we will be judged on our intentions.’ Mine are to love, be grateful, give thanks, offer whatever service I can give, be accountable and always uphold the dignity of every person, no matter what.

One of my favorite quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King is “The end of life is not to achieve pleasure and avoid pain. The end of life is to do the will of God, come what may.”

I can’t gift-wrap a response to your request, but only promise I will pursue it with renewed vigor. If it takes one heart and soul at a time, then so be it. We are in this together, and I’m full in. So help me, God.

With eternal love,

Your Mother

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