How Are You Doing Over There?

Full disclosure: I haven't been paying much attention to the events of the past few days these past few days. I don't really want to know what's going on out there, and that's easy to do when you live in rural Vermont.

Fuller disclosure: I'm not a political person. There was a time when I was intrigued by Washington, by the political process and by what seemed like a kind of magic in regards to how things get done in this country. But over the years that curiosity was eroded, when I came to understand the role of big business in politics; when I heard that Ronald Reagan had removed (not with his own hands, of course) the solar panels that Jimmy Carter had added to the White House during the energy crisis of 1979. My confidence and care dipped lower in the aftermath of 9/11 when I learned what was really happening with George Bush and his oil buddies, while actual humans I knew went off to fight a fabricated war and came back forever harmed. But I think things had already really bottomed out for me when Bill Clinton had "sexual relations" with an intern in the Oval Office. If the President of the United States didn't care enough to take his primal urges to, say, a back hallway, or even to take a moment to think to himself..."You know, I'm the President, I probably shouldn't do this," then I didn't care anymore, either. Sure, everyone's human, but not everyone gets to be President of the United States of America.

I don't care anymore, and I know that it's going to make some of you mad. That's OK. It seems to me there's a lot of mad floating around right now, and a lot of sad, too. Also OK. I think it's great to feel all of these things. The question, of course, is what to do with those strong emotions, how to harness them for change. 

I recall vividly that in the aftermath of 9/11 how suddenly everyone, and I mean everyone, was sporting an American flag. Which struck me then as odd. Friends I would never describe as particularly patriotic had flags on their cars, their bikes, their buildings. Let's recall for a moment that a lot of that momentum drove this country into a war that lasted longer than either world war. Take a gander over to Iraq Body Count, and you will learn that 251,000 humans have died violent deaths in the aftermath of that war, updated as recently as Friday.

In the hours and days following 9/11 there were countless acts of kindness, of generosity, of love and compassion and heroism. People's hearts were shattered and they reacted by taking care of other people. Somewhere along the line that compassion turned to rage and then the rage turned to war.

We humans make bad decisions, sometimes on a personal level and sometimes collectively. Really bad decisions. One would think that if we put our brain-filled heads together we would come up with lots of good ideas, but that isn't always the case. I took a brief glance at the news this morning and saw that people are getting images of safety pins tattooed to their bodies and staging protests that are turning into violent riots.

I hate to say it, but something tells me that someone I know who has the worst hairdo in history is loving all of this madness. Something tells me that said person with terrible hair is having a good chuckle right now. Lord knows I love a good tattoo and I'm a big fan of fire, but I'm not so sure they're going to create the kind of change we need in this weary world today.

If you are angry about the outcome of this past Presidential election I have a few suggestions: run for office and create change from within the system. Start right in your own town.  Also, start rooting around and see where you can help. Find out how to do something, anything, that makes this world a better place today. I know lots of people think that's a hokey notion put forth by a sappy minister, but I absolutely will be screaming this from the top of every mountain until the day I die: the very best thing you can do any day and every day that you are walking this earth is to look around and see where you can help. Is someone hungry? Lonely? Worried? Do something to help. We often don't have control over the bad things that happen in this life, but we absolutely have control over how we respond. And the very best thing you can ask yourself is, "how can I help?" Put your life to work to generate change on a small scale. It will add up, if we all choose this road. 


Last night our friend, Stacy Fraser, who runs the test kitchen at Eating Well Magazine, put together a fantastic event for a bunch of kids so that Coco could practice her cooking skills. On a Friday night when I'm sure she was tired and wanted to go home, she set up a little cooking competition, just like on the show, Chopped Junior. Coco prepared an entrée, Sawyer did the appetizer and Josh, dessert. It was so much fun, not only to be in that great kitchen, but to watch the kids cooking. They're really good and they made delicious dishes.  

But the greatest part was this: nine of Coco's friends showed up to cheer her on. Those kids came out to watch Coco cook because they know she's really close to being cast for a cooking show that's on the Food Network and they are her biggest fans. No hint of jealousy, only support. At one point, while the the clock was running and the cooking frenzy was happening, Sawyer, who was working hard to de-vein the shrimp he had found in his basket, shouted across the kitchen: "How are you doing over there, Coco?"

How are you doing over there, Coco? Sawyer was in the thick of it -- not a moment when one would naturally stop and consider the well-being of someone else. It was an act of such tender generosity I thought I would melt.

In the test kitchen last night I witnessed a little microcosm of what this world can and should be: 10 and 11-year-olds being nice to each other, doing things that are challenging, cheering each other on, offering words of praise and kindness, cooking good food and sharing it with everyone and cleaning up together. All of Coco's friends and some of their parents showed up for one reason only: because they care. 

We are in this, people, we are in this life and we have a choice every single day. We can show up and care or we can show up and make a bigger mess of something that's already a mess. And we all know perfectly well what that means and what that looks like. Amen.