Wonder//

What I’m Thinking Ahead of This Fourth of July

Thoughts from Maria Shriver's Sunday Paper

Chanamon Chongkasem / EyeEm/ Getty Images
Chanamon Chongkasem / EyeEm/ Getty Images

The other morning when I sat down to meditate, my mind was bouncing all over the place and I struggled to access a place of calm.

One second, I was thinking about my children. The next, I was thinking about the children who have been separated from their parents at the border. I could feel myself feeling their fear and anxiety and I shuddered at the thought of what they must be going through.

Then, I found myself thinking about the terror inside the newsroom in Annapolis. I felt terror inside me as I thought about how unsafe everyone seems to feel these days. In fact, just the other day, I cautioned my kids not to get into a fight with someone on the road (or anywhere else for that matter). I cautioned them that everyone has so much rage and anger these days that you have to be careful in every circumstance. You just never know.

We really do live in “you never know” times. Parents send their kids off to school and hold their breath. Journalists go to work and hold their breath as they pursue the truth. Many people hold their breath now as they watch the turnover in the Supreme Court. Students who are graduating from high school and college hold their breath as they head out into an uncertain job market. Boomers hold their breath hoping that they won’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, cancer or some other horrendous disease.

When I think about all of this, I get overwhelmed. That’s when I have to stop and remind myself to take a deep, long breath. I remind myself that these negative images are only a small part of what’s going on.

I remind myself of what I do know and believe to be true. I believe that we still live in a great nation — one that we are all so lucky to call home. I believe that we live in what I like to call “A Purple Nation” — one where it’s not red vs. blue, but where red and blue mix together to give us the majestic and brilliant color purple. Purple may be my favorite color, but it’s also a color of independence, unity and freedom.

I believe we have more in common than we realize. I think the two political parties drive us apart and make us live in a state of distrust and judgment, but I believe that if we all sat still every morning for just 10 minutes, then we would calm our minds and our central nervous systems and realize that it doesn’t have to be this way.

I believe that if we all took a moment to take off our blinders and widen our gazes, then we would be able to look into people’s hearts, listen to their life stories, and realize that we have so much in common. I believe that we would discover that our family, our friends, our neighbors, our fellow parents, and our office mates are all seeking the same sense of belonging that we are. We would realize that we’re all seeking the same sense of freedom and safety. We would realize that we all have the same desire to do well for ourselves, for our families, and for our country.

Don’t call me naive or tell me I’m in denial. Call me observant and tell me, “Yes, Maria, I see this, too.”

The vast majority of us are good, kind, compassionate, law-abiding citizens who love our country and would stop to help our neighbor. I can see this when my mind and my heart aren’t racing. I can see this when I take a step back and don’t listen to the voices telling me that the sky is falling down.

When I widen my gaze, I see hardworking individuals everywhere who put others before themselves. They work in our hospitals, in our fire stations, in our schools, and in our community centers. They volunteer for our military and for non-profits all across the country. They build houses and playgrounds. They serve in churches, on hotlines, in shelters and in nursing homes.

I see young entrepreneurs trying to solve our most pressing social ills with innovative and socially conscious businesses. Their hopes, their desires, and their determination give me hope. I meet with them all the time and I never ask them what political party they belong to. I ask them what their dreams are, what they want to change, and where they get their hope. Their answers always inspire me.

I also see so many hard-working people who are trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s and who don’t give up. I see people coming together from all walks of life – crossing religious divides, gender divides, and racial divides – to use their skills and their smarts to make life better for others.

Everywhere around us, people are working together. They are listening to one another, trying to understand one another, and trying to make a difference. When I think about all of this, I feel a sense of hope and calm wash over me. “Maria,” I say to myself, “all is well.”

There is so much hope! There are so many good people! People who are working to achieve the American dream, which is still very much alive and attainable. If you don’t believe me, think about what’s been created in recent years alone. We are a nation of people that conceived of Amazon, Uber and the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” just to name a few great things. We are creative, conscious, collaborative and caring people. We are big dreamers and on-the-ground doers.

So, as we look ahead to our nation’s birthday on Wednesday, know this. We are blessed to live in a country where we are free. We have a free press. We are free to practice any religion. We are free to gather, to organize, and to marry anyone we want. We are free to wander off the beaten path, or to jump into the fray. We are free to shout and use our voices, or to just calmly go about our days. And, if you feel like any of your freedoms are under attack, then remember that you have the freedom to vote, to fight for what you believe in, to push for change, and to make a difference.

Let’s remember that when we stay in our goodness, we can see the goodness in others. When we help our neighbors, we can know that we are actually doing the Lord’s work. And, when we use our voices in a calm, confident, certain and clear way, we can know that we are doing what our forefathers and our foremothers fought for us to do.

As Americans, we are what everyone wants to be. Free. So, take a deep breath, look around and within, and celebrate that freedom. Celebrate it today. Celebrate it this week. And celebrate it each and every day.

Wave the flag this week. Wear your red, white and blue. But also consider wearing a little purple, too. It just might remind you – and others – that you believe in unity. I hope you can see that it’s possible. It’s right there in front of you. Just open your eyes.

Maria Shriver is an award-winning journalist and the New York Times bestselling author of “I’ve Been Thinking…: Reflections, Prayers and Meditations for a Meaningful Life.” This essay first appeared in Maria’s Sunday Paper, a free weekly digital newsletter for people with passion and purpose. Click here to learn more and subscribe.

Originally published at mariashriver.com

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