2020 has been one really, really, really loud year. And the noise just seems to be getting louder and louder. Life will go on – I hope you know this. Regardless of how crazy, ridiculous or long the next couple months get:

Life. Will. Go. On.

And with life going on, as it always will, let’s take one big step back off the “line of fire” for a moment to a more lower decibel area. I know it is hard, but let’s step back.

Away from our phones or other devices giving us access to ze interwebs.

Away from our choice of news sources.

Away from our favorite political personality.

Step back from the comment sections and engaging in these ridiculous debates.

Away from all of the beating drums, sounding brass and clanging cymbals.

Let’s have a look around and start the work of starting small. With working with what we’ve got. Let’s try to see how things are where we are. Ground level. Let’s look at our family, friends and neighbors – despite how “crazy” some of them may be. Did they vote for the “other”? Ok, so some of them did, some of them didn’t. Are any of the ones that voted the other way evil? Are the bridges burned because of this, or is it more nuanced? I’d be willing to be your answer isn’t a clear line in the sand. I know my answer is nuanced, I know they aren’t evil for voting differently.

I’m betting on our humanity here.

Collectively, both the ones that voted for and against – do you think they are responsible for the way our country is, really? I’d also be willing to bet on your answer being “no”. I’d also be willing to bet that your family, friends and neighbors (as well as my own) would like to see our community, city, county, state and nation – and even the world – become a “better place”. There may be disagreements on how that looks, especially as we get further and further out into the realms of state and nation. So let’s bring it back to community. Can we not start there?

Yeah but Trump and the Republicans!

Yeah but Biden and the Democrats!

No, no, no… stop, just… just… breathe for a moment.

Bring it back to the small things, forget about the overarching macro for a moment. Family, friends, neighbors… community.

In my post, “It Starts with You”, I expounded upon some thoughts that I brought up in the prior post, “We Must Do Better”. The thoughts that I expounded upon in “It Starts with You” came from this quote in “We Must Do Better”:

Demand a higher standard from ourselves. “Being the change”, as it were. Start small, get your life together. Take a look at your Shadow. Understand your own nature. Deal with the skeletons in your closet. Extend grace to yourself for it and grace to other people knowing they struggle with their own nature too. Understand each of us, yourself included, is quite literally a small random chance away from death. Balance your checkbook. Don’t be a jerk to the local barista making your coffee. Don’t lose your temper with the nervous WalMart employee who asks you to put on a mask – they are just doing their job. They don’t need you pontificating about your views on freedom. Be kind to the waitress who brought your food to you incorrectly. Look to making an impact with your immediate family and closest circle of friends – find a way to add value and make their lives better. Support your friends who have small businesses, and maybe look to support their friends who have small businesses too. We then continually expand this pattern of investing in our circles, neighborhoods and communities (promoting good relations in the neighborhood, service, lending a hand, helping a local cause or charity, etc), then our town, then our county, then our state and then our nation.

“We Must Do Better”

This is really where the focus should be in trying to fix our little neck of the woods: gettings ourselves in order, our circle of family/friends, our neighborhood & community. The more we strive to build bridges, repair relationships, listen to each other and strive for better in ourselves and others… this could really hold the key to making positive impacts. If we all focused on making our particular neck of the woods better, maybe we will all meet in the middle to tackle the “big” problems more easily.

Forgive the religious aside here, the next two paragraphs are written from a Christian worldview (that is where I came from after all – “Hello, my name is Tom, and I’m a recovering religiously zealous Christian…”) but I believe there are nuggets in here for all of us without being preachy.

There is a good reason why Jesus reserved his sharpest criticisms for the “elite”, more specifically, the religious – especially those in leadership. They were focusing on “looking good” rather than actually being and doing good. Take a look, by and large the religious elite were called: brood of vipers, hypocrites, white washed tombs, and blind. They extorted their followers to have access to their religious requirements (see the cleansing – or riot – at the temple), they added more and more rules, never lifting a finger to help with the burden. How many times did Jesus talk about a more internal change that needed to happen. How many times did he “Woe unto” those religious elite for ignoring the internal things?

First wash the inside of the cup…

In other words: start small.

The hard part is doing the work in the first place. The harder part is doing the work even if other people aren’t doing it. Siblings do this all the time regarding chores, homework or whatever task that takes them away from doing what they want to do. This is that whole focusing on the speck in your brother’s eye and ignoring plank in your own eye thing that Jesus talked about, played out in real time.

As the saying goes, “You do you.”

We have to set the example ourself first, Acta Non Verba.

Acta Non Verba. Actions not words. Like it or not, this is the plumb-line. You’ve heard it a million different ways: Talk is Cheap. Put up or Shut up. Put your money where your mouth is. Walk the walk. Prove it.

If you pause and listen to all the talk around you from your friends, your family, your coworkers, etc., and compare what they say versus what they do, you can very quickly make assessments as to who is full of shit. Their behaviors and actions prove what they are really about. This is very disruptive, I know, because talk is always the easier and more comfortable path. It’s disruptive because it is the wind that will cause our house of cards to tumble and be scattered. Politics, Religion, Work, Relationships, Passions, Hobbies, Businesses, etc… all of these and more are weighed by what you do over what you say.

“Acta Non Verba”

So we focus on doing. We focus on becoming that which we wish to see in ourselves, our circle, our neighborhood and community. In essence, we become the Standard, the Light. And as we shine, it will attract others. We need to be the kind of Leaders we wish to see rise up, even if we do not hold an office or title.

You do not have to lead from the top, you actually can lead from wherever you are.

Enough of the “hooray for our side” divisiveness and uber-partisanism. Starting small makes those partisan lines fade as we meet in the middle over more common ground held than we thought initially.

But what about the POTUS and the Career Politicans?

Well, what about them?

I know I’m projecting here, but I have a belief that a lot of us, hopefully the majority of us, do not truly trust either party’s politicians (from the POTUS on down) as far as we can throw them. They will keep doing what they do.

It is imperative that we rise above the noise, the lies, the agendas, the broken campaign promises, the uber-partisanship, the finger pointing, the flip-flopping and all the CYA-ing that they do for their own benefit. Keep an eye out for them, but never lose focus of making an impact in our own neck of the woods.

We need to see things as they are in our own area. Not as they tell you it is.

It starts by backing away from the noise.

It starts on the ground, with you, with your family, with your neighbors and community. Continually stretching “upward and outward” as those things are taken care of.

To be that man (or that woman) that you wish to see in the world.

It all starts there. Clean the inside of the damn cup.

This is for me, too, by the way. I haven’t “arrived”. I’m working at what I’ve written here as well. And it can be a daunting task. That’s why we start with the smallest of those circles and move outward.

Will you start small?