Excerpt from Navigating Life in a Whackadoodle World, by Lynn Marie Sager
“So how do you think we should end this thing?” she asked, sounding almost as excited as when we’d begun.
“Well,” I considered. “I think that we should point out that over a million Americans have died from covid. That we do have a vaccine, but a whole lot of people won’t take it, and that we have ended all the mask mandates even though the virus keeps mutating into more dangerous variants.”
“Oh lord that’s depressing,” she shook her head. “That will never do.”
“Should we point out the summer of protests that followed Georeg Floyd’s murder, and the thousands of gun deaths that have followed?”
“I guess we shouldn’t mention January 6, and the second impeachment either,” I asked, casually.
“You are not taking this seriously,” she accused.
“You are the one who wanted me to put the last few years into context,” I teased.
“Fine, go ahead,” she countered. “Why don’t you bring up voting rights, abortion rights, gun rights, inflation, and the war in Ukraine, so we can just have done with it?”
“I don’t have to,” I grinned. “You just did.”
She stuck her tongue out at me, crossed her arms, and sat silent.
“Okay,” I laughed, relenting. “How would you like to end this?”
“With something upbeat,” she threw up her hands. “With something more than hope and prayers. With something better than the last two years, three months, and fourteen days.”
“Something upbeat, huh,” I said, knowing she was right. It’s a waste of time to bring up a problem unless you can offer a solution. “How about this,” I offered eventually. “Consider how much you have learned over the past two years, three months, and fourteen days. Things you would never have understood had you not lived through them. Lessons that you can take with you into the future. Lesson that might even be your gift to the future.”
“I said upbeat, not illusional.”
“Don’t you realize how often one person has impacted the world?” I asked her. “Hitler, Churchill, Aristotle, Plato, Christ, Mohamad, Newton, Einstein, Nixon, Trump, and those are just a few of the famous ones. Every day individuals impact the world.”
“Why do I find it disconcerting that you began your list with Hitler?”
I smiled, “Probably because it’s disconcerting to think about the impact Hitler had, but he did have an impact. He still has an impact nearly one hundred years later.”
“And this has something to do with me?”
“It has everything to do with everything,” I countered. “Your life will have an impact whether you realize that, or not.”
“That’s no way to end this,” she said eventually. “So what’s our final thought gonna be?”
“That there is no final thought,” I suggested. “There is only more learning. That instead of talking, we should be open to listening. Perhaps even that we should start ignoring the talkers, the distractors, the peddlers of outrage, and start listening to the listeners. After all, the best way to learn is to listen.”
She rolled her eyes. “That won’t work. We have to bring our story back to the rules.”
“Fine,” I agreed. “So what have the rules taught you?”
“I suppose they have taught me to pay attention to how my actions impact the world.”
“Yeah,” I cheered. “I’d call that a big victory for Responsibility. Let’s write that in huge letters across the sky. Anything else?”
She seemed flustered, trying to come up with a thought. “I’d say that staying loyal to the truth is more important than staying loyal to a liar.”
“I think that’s a great anchor for you to use in your mission,” I agreed. “Anything else?”
“I don’t know,” she cried at last. “I think that I need to practice these rules every day until I really understand them and make them into a habit.”
“Sounds good to me,” I grinned, tossing her the book.
“What about you?” she asked, hugging the pages tightly to her chest. “What do you want people to take from this?”
“Actually,” I told her. “I keep thinking about this morning before we got started on this project of yours. I was watching one of those talking heads we talked about. He was interviewing a family whose sister had been in the crowd on January 6. They were discussing how she had been radicalized within six months, and had decided to throw herself into the battle. She died that day, but more than anything they wanted people to know that she was not a bad, or crazy person. They wanted people to remember her as a loving aunt, a giving sister, and a wonderful friend.”
“Is she the one who got shot?”
“No, I think she got crushed in the crowd.” We were both silent for quite some time, until I found the nerve to add,” But that is not what has been haunting me. I keep thinking about her brother’s wish.”
“What wish was that?”
“Just before they broke for a commercial, he was able to say that he wished that he had talked to his sister the day before she left for D.C., and the talking head asked, ‘What would you have told her?’”
“He started listing what he would have told her. ‘Don’t go. It’s all a lie. There was no election fraud. Blah, blah, blah, blah,blah.’ I heard his answer, and got so sad.”
“Because I knew that all his talking would not have worked. It would have fallen on deaf ears, but I was also pretty sure that I knew what might have worked.”
“What’s that?” she asked, holding the book tighter.
“Reminding her that her nieces were waiting to go on a picnic, and asking her to stay home for them. Asking her what she was afraid of, and helping her to face her fears. Providing her what she needed before she went looking for it on the Capitol steps. People really need to stop talking, and start listening. People really need to start asking, instead of telling.”
“Is that what you do with me?” she asked suddenly.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, I have noticed that you write a question on the page, and then wait for me to give you an answer.”
“I suppose that is what I have been doing,” I admitted. “I also know that it’s been a long day, and I am ready for bed. Therefore, I am giving you the last word.”
She looked at me for a long time, still hugging the book tightly. “I think that I simply want to say thank you. Thank you for making me real. Thank you for teaching me your rules. Thank you for taking me seriously. Thank you for listening.”