• Jim Brown

Gratitude, Light and Howard Baker

It's been a great Christmas so far.

I've heard from many friends after the recent Tennessean article that wound up on yesterday's front page. Not long ago, it wasn't as easy for me to be vulnerable and to tell people I was sometimes "pissed" and overwhelmed after Dori died, too often judgmental of others, and all the other fun things I continue to work on unpacking.

I appreciate each and every comment from friends ... sharing that you plan to serve more regularly, slow down, breathe and meet more people in person, and work on being less judgmental. It warms my heart! Thank you!

I continue to be troubled, however, but what is happening in our wonderful republic. A few weeks ago as I travelled the state, a person said with conviction, "Democrats are the enemy to our country." I asked why he believed this, and he said socialism would ruin us all. I said, "I'm not a fan of socialism at all, but I don't believe most Democrats believe in it; in fact, most are against it, from what I've experienced in my conversations. And most young people who learn what it really is don't like it, either (and many don't vote, BTW)."

And there is the problem. Too few of us are having conversations with each other about such topics. We're only engaging people people in our own "tribe" (bad idea), "learning" others' views on social media or through shoddy, one-sided posts, or mesmerized by Binary TV News. Too many are absorbing and spreading firm, dark messages, often personal. Our president tweets like this, attacking people personally, undermining our institutions that protect us all (military, Pentagon, FBI, etc.) and chipping away at our five-pronged First Amendment. Equally concerning, left-leaning media obsesses over his seemingly non-stop pronouncements of ugliness. They enable him, while their cash registers ring.

The problem is just as bad on the other side. Recently, a left-leaning tweeter said I'm responsible for stopping legislation in my home state that would help independent contractors who are being sexually harassed. For the record, I'm disgusted by anyone who sexually harasses anyone, employee or otherwise. Off Twitter, here's what's really going on ... The proposed, well intended legislation (I really like the Democratic sponsors) is complex. It likely would lead to important improvements, but also as drafted could undermine Tennessee's and national employer-employee laws. Only a few states have dipped their toes in the water, and the feds haven't budged (sound familiar?).

We've had important hearings and more are likely. Anyone who took time to hear everyone's testimony in committees would understand the complexity. Anyone who would contact me personally would know the organization I represent and others are working on ways to help IC's who are being sexually harassed, without increasing slippery slope risk to existing labor laws. We're doing this on multiple issues, in fact ... meeting with other groups and trying to find middle ground before engaging lawmakers with new ideas for their consideration. That's rarely on anyone's Twitter feed, from my Internet window.

If I spent time and energy responding to these tweets and posts it would undermine what I'm working on ... better solutions and a better me. I'm trying to be the change I wish to see ... which leads me to what I've been working on.

- I'm staying committed to regular service. It keeps me curious, engaged and wanting to help people instead of judging them. And it works!

- I'm practicing daily gratitude. My daily routine includes stating three things/people/etc. for which I'm grateful (Oprah's excellent advice).

- I'm watching media, getting my news from diverse sources, and reading books that help. Like this moving short film on Gratitude embedded above. The little girl and the old man share equally wise words on Growing Spiritually by being grateful. I read the Tennessean, NYT and WSJ daily. Earlier this month, a staff member at the Legislature showed me a book she was reading: "The Other Fella May Be Right - The Civility of Howard Baker" by Memphis lawyer Bill Haltom. What a statesman he was! More like him are needed on both sides of the aisle.

Lastly, I'm saying YES to Light, which is the meaning of Christmas. Father Dexter's homily at Midnight Mass was simple. Light comes into a world that is beautiful yet full of much darkness. Will we walk with Light or attach to darkness, even spread it? He reminded us of the boys caught in a flooded cave in 2018 who endured complete darkness for weeks. We prayed for their well being. We later learned they accepted where they were, meditated, and finally saw the light from a diver with a head beacon. Soon, they came back to full Light. A great story and metaphor.

Today's flood of negativity and divisiveness, too, shall recede. We're in charge of this, one person at a time, and collectively. Happy New Year ... May it be full of connectivity to new friends who don't think like you, and growth and love!

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