“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’
– Statue of Liberty, words by Emma Lazarus
How can we make America great?
The question isn’t “How do we make American great AGAIN.”
We don’t want to go back to when we slaughtered Native Americans and took their land. We don’t want to go back to African Americans being sold and owned as slaves, or when they were forced to sit in the back of the bus, spit on, beaten, and lynched for the color of their skin. We don’t want to go back to when women could not vote and their role was to be in the kitchen making a meal for when their husbands arrived home from work. We don’t want to go back to when children were expected to be “seen but not heard.” We don’t want to go back to a time when same sex couples could not marry or white straight men would mob kill a gay man.
The question also isn’t “How do we KEEP America great.”
Women are still objectified and belittled. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites. Racism still exists in so many forms just as Justice Sonia Sotomayor said about the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Trump’s travel band to mostly Muslim countries that it is no better than Korematsu v. United States. LGBTQ people still face discrimination in medicine, politics, and workplaces. And children are being shot and killed in schools.
Maybe today as we go to our fourth of July picnics, we don’t want to be reminded of this reality. I get it. You might be like, “Lisa, all I wanted to do was get up, go to a Fourth of July picnic, eat some fried chicken and macaroni salad, and watch the damn fireworks.”
We are tired. I am weary from all the news. Honestly, I’m sick of the harsh, grotesque (racist, sexist, xenophobic) way our Chief talks to us. And my head is still spinning from the latest mess he made with families at the US/Mexican border.
It’s enough to make you depressed and apathetic. It’s enough to say, “Screw it. I’d like another margarita, please.” And sit back in your comfy lounge chair, zone out on social media, and let someone else take care of it or wait for a miracle.
To “make America great” feels like too much. It all feels too heavy, too complicated, and too much. I know plenty of good people in this world who do not want to go back, who are done with how things currently are, but who don’t know how to go forward. It feels like we are losing our humanity. And everyone is exhausted, overwhelmed, and overstimulated.
The other day, I was feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, overstimulated, and in a hurry. I was on a mission going into the store. My goal was to find a birthday gift for a family member and then get out – quickly. But then, I saw this:
An elderly couple at the register. I guessed they were in their early eighties. The gentleman was confused and was slightly shaking. He most likely had some form of dementia. While his wife finished her purchase, she gently held his arm, helping him to steady himself. She kindly said to him, “We’re almost done, Love.” Her words word soft, loving, and patient as she both paid for her purchases and reassuringly caressed her husband’s arm.
Watching them, I was no longer in such a hurry. Tears came to my eyes. The love and regard with which she talked to and engaged with her husband was beautiful. I imagine they had been married many years of intimacy, disappointments, joys, and sorrows. And the regard between them was palpable. He trusted her. She was gentle with him.
The loving regard she had for him was so contagious that the store clerk started to smile kindly and engage in conversation with the gentleman, even though he didn’t give any indication that he understood her. The store clerk didn’t talk to him in that adult baby talk with a high pitch, exaggerated tone. The store clerk didn’t dismiss the gentleman or act like he wasn’t there. Instead, the store clerk regarded the elderly gentleman because his wife had such regard for him. Her regard was contagious. The store clerk talked to him like a normal human being. She looked at him kindly. She didn’t avoid eye contact or talk loudly. She regarded him.
And it was all because this gentleman’s wife set the tone for the rest of us to truly see her husband, and regard him as a human being worthy of dignity, inclusion, and consideration.
When it was time to walk out of the store, the elderly woman gently guided her husband and patiently waited for him to take each shaky step. She didn’t rush him. She didn’t hurry him with a sharp tone. She gently guided him. And in doing so, she regarded him.
She regarded him as a human being. She regarded him as her beloved. She regarded him as though he mattered.
Those of us in the store wanted to help the couple – to regard them. One person held the couple’s bag. Another held the door open. I held open the car door. Once they were in the car, we all waved to them. Then we looked at each other and smiled.
We all had jumped in to treat this elderly couple with regard because of this elderly gentleman’s wife and the regard she had for her husband.
She set the tone for how we would regard her frail husband with dementia. This eighty year old woman’s power was in her love and regard. Her power was in her inclusivity. Her power was in how she treated her husband as though he was relevant and he mattered. And a group of strangers – young and old, black and white – followed her lead.
It all started with regard.
This experience got me thinking. What can really make America great?
Regard our most vulnerable. Those who are losing their faculties, like this elderly man standing in front of me at the register with wife shaking, confused. Our children at the US/Mexican border who are separated from their mom and dad. Our African American brothers and sisters being looked at suspiciously at a coffee shop. Our Muslim neighbor sitting next to us on the airplane. Our transgendered coworkers.
What can make America great?
What can save our humanity?
Treating one another with regard.
Let’s make America great by being a place where we remember our humanity.
A place where the most vulnerable aren’t objectified, thought of as irrelevant, or ignored as though they don’t even exist. A place where differences in skin tone, sexual orientation, gender, and race exist and we regard these differences.
As a mom to two children, I think about the world I want all our children – black, white, Muslim, gay, girl or boy – to live in. We all want our children to be loved, to have access to high-quality healthcare and education, to be regarded on their merit for jobs, and to be free from bullying, discrimination, or hate.
Recently, a client told me that she and her daughter went to the pool. Her daughter walked up to a group of girls gathered around a table. She was bigger and taller than the other girls. She had hit puberty a little earlier than her friends. They exchanged some words, the girls started laughing, and they walked away. There stood her daughter alone with a look of sheer hurt and humiliation.
Who would want their child to experience being left out? Who would want their child to be discriminated against, hated because of the color of your child’s skin, gender, or sexual orientation? No one. We all want the same thing for our children: to be loved and to be regarded.
To make America great, let’s start with regard.
Regard your dear ones – the people in your family – with your full presence, your gentle tone of voice, your understanding, your time, and your embrace.
Continue on by regarding those around us — our coworkers, our neighbors, others driving on the road, and others standing in line at the airport or the ice cream shop.
And then keep going regarding those who are far away from you — those you’ll never meet face-to-face — like the families at the US/Mexican border — and opening your heart and mind to find what you have in common and understanding that they, too, have the same hopes and desires as you do.
Regard. THIS is true leadership.
We can be a country that shows children, the elderly, the sick, the undocumented, the refugee, the transgender person, and the person whose skin is different from yours that they indeed matter. They are relevant. They belong. And they are to be regarded.
This is what will make America great.
You belong. You matter. You are loved.
Let us lift the lamp beside our golden door – of our hearts and our country – to regard the most vulnerable, the most disregarded. And let’s be known as a country that remembers its humanity. Let’s remember that we belong to each other.
Dear Ones, I want to invite you to this special opportunity this fall.
Listening to my clients and readers, it’s been on my heart for awhile to offer an experience for parents. I believe that if we can start treating our young people with regard, we will raise the next generation of leaders to be compassionate and inclusive. I believe in investing in our children now so they will be kinder and more regarding, have less traumatic experiences, experience less bullying (and less need to bully), and have the emotional skills to be resilient when facing adversity in the future.
Introducing…Regarding Our Children
This fall, I will be facilitating my first a live course called, Regarding Our Children. We will explore research-based present parenting practices to build up our children’s sense of resiliency, emotional intelligence, leadership skills, and compassion.
This is one of the ways I am countering the harshness I see in the world and helping people to slow down and remember to love, to regard our children, and to support them to be the next generation of leaders who are compassionate and inclusive.
If you’d like to find out more, here.