In early 2020 as the virus began to spread, many of us wondered if we could come out of it changed. Could we come out less alone and more unified, knowing more about what it means to be a whole and complete human being?
In that fearful and hopeful time, an invitation went out, and people from virtually every line of work and walk of life who had deeply thought, deeply felt, and deeply strived came together for twenty- four hours— the honest and the vulnerable, the loving and the courageous, the wise and the wounded, the
teachers and preachers and poets and healers who wanted to become better human beings and help us do the same.
They poured out their love to help us feel, ponder, and heal. And from that gathering came a moment-in- time book that will stand the test of time—because it shows us that nothing on earth is more lovable and meaningful than humanity taking care of its own.
I hope that in reading this book you felt you were able to pull up a chair, have a seat, and join the conversation, listening to voices of people who sent you their love, showed you their lives, and shared their secrets for making it to safety when the seas get rough. I hope they made you feel less alone,
and more a part of the whole.
Mother Teresa famously said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The Call to Unite reminds us on every page that we belong to each other. I hope it helped you enter not just a moment in time, but the community of our times, and made you say to yourself, “Here is a home for me. Here is a community where I belong. I may not have found it where I expected it, but I’m excited to be a part of it— and I didn’t even know it was here.”
The people in our new community give me hope that the division we’re seeing in society is not a trend; it is a reaction to the trend, and the trend is toward unity, not division. Yes, times are disruptive. But I challenge any doubters to show me a society that has done better with more diversity at a time of greater change. Disruption is a sign of hope. It’s the price of honoring our promise to leave the past and lift every voice. And the people guiding us are giving us a new story and a new identity: We are uniters.
The two most exciting things to me about The Call to Unite are the community of uniters that is forming around it, and the fact that The Call to Unite is the first book of my new imprint, The Open Field. The Open Field will give a bigger voice to the writers and readers of this book and all the architects of change who are building the world of their dreams.
My goal is to publish books that honor one of the most unifying truths in human life: We are all seeking the same things. We’re all seeking dignity. We’re all seeking joy. We all want to be seen, to be valued, to be understood, to be loved. And here is the miracle— even though we all want the same things, there doesn’t have to be any competition among us, because the things we want are not material goods; they are spiritual gifts. We don’t need to fight over them, because the supply is infinite. We don’t have to battle for them, because when we get them, we can’t help but share them. The more love I receive, the more love I give. The more those around me feel joy, the more I’m surrounded by joy. We are not separate. We are one.
My whole life has been a search for this oneness— to unite my interior self with my exterior self— and The Call to Unite gives words and direction to my search.
A few years ago, I closed one of my books with a chapter on the power of reevaluating. I had realized that so many of the beliefs and opinions I adopted long ago no longer held up for me. And because some of my biggest moments of growth have come when I realized I was wrong and admitted it to others, I wrote page after page about things I got wrong: beliefs about marriage, the Catholic Church, politics, divorce, addiction, therapy, men, motherhood. But now I realize that there was one thing I left off my list. It was part of every item in there, but I never named it directly.
I was wrong about happiness. And that’s not just my mistake. It’s ours. I think we have all been massively misguided about what it takes to be happy.
It’s audacious to make a sweeping critique of human civilization, but here goes: We’re hugely gifted in art, music, dance, and literature. We’re making gains in engineering, medicine, science, and technology. But happiness is not something we’re doing well. In fact, some experts suggest we’re getting worse.
Personally, I think we’re getting ready. Happiness is the next big human breakthrough.
Thomas Keating, the Catholic priest and contemplative, said that to repent is to change the direction in which we’re looking for happiness. That makes sense to me, because the way many of us are seeking happiness is driving us apart. Most of us are seeking happiness in success, and what we’re calling success is being rich, or famous, or powerful, or popular. But these are all comparative measures. We can’t be rich, powerful, famous, and popular unless others are poor, weak, obscure, and disliked. It locks us into a system where others have to fail for us to succeed. We have to redefine success so it aligns with our natural state, which is unity. That’s where we’ll find happiness.
If we work just as hard to come together as we’ve worked in the past to stay apart, we may finally find our destiny as a large, powerful, loving family finding its meaning in helping each other.
This movement toward unity has been quickened by the virus— at least it has for me. At the time of the lockdowns, as the danger became real, many of us were anxious and scared. I know in my own life when I’ve felt scared, I’ve been helped most when I’ve reached out, and someone on the other end has
picked up the phone and answered my call.
So much darkness gets cured when we connect with other human beings. That’s when we feel whole. My brothers and I were raised to go out and conquer Mount Everest, to be successful in the world, but I’ve learned the hard way that what makes me whole is one- on- one human connection— when a friend and I can tell each other our stories, share our joy and pain, and help each other toward happiness. That brings me the peace that I thought the bestselling book would give me, that I thought anchoring a show could give me. Human connection is what fills my heart and makes me whole. That’s when I feel community, and I’m coming to learn that this community is so much bigger than I thought it was.
People have said to me that all this talk about kindness is going away when the virus is over, that everyone’s going to go right back to where they started. I don’t think so. I’m never going back. I’m a uniter.
Edited by Tim Shriver and Tom Rosshirt