How Big is Your Tent?
By Will Ivey (2020)
How big is your tent? How willing are you to face your own weaknesses? My journey began in earnest during Obama's second term, but had nothing to do with Obama. The catalyst was super simple. I turned off our cable, and the AM radio in my car broke. I wish I could say that I had an epiphany, but what I got was a quieting of my mind. Not QUIET, but quiet. With FB, Twitter and You Tube, still plenty to sort through, just not the blatant, unceasing propaganda of my favorite news channels.
It was freeing for me. And lonely. My tent grew. I was able to accept more and more people who were different from me. I began to see them with hope rather than fear. I quit listening to those whose only product to sell is fear. I genuinely started seeking solutions to problems rather than retreating to the safety of artificial labels foisted on me by the powers that be.
My tent grew, but the world around me shifted into fast motion. Labeling the world, defining what your tent can house and what you can put in it. To which I say, grow your tent. It is yours.
You can juggle different topics, holding views that don't fit the generated label. You can be Pro- choice and Anti- abortion, Pro law enforcement and Pro law enforcement reform, Pro BLM and anti- looter, Pro market and Pro social programs. If you stretch yourself, you will no longer fit into niches, into political parties. You will feel freedom and angst.
In no small part, that is Actions Matter. Stretching you in uncomfortable ways, growing your tent to accommodate those you thought were your enemies, because of their label, rather than looking beyond into the individual character. Particular members of each label will rise to the level to surprise you, or if you only look for it, to reinforce the stereotype of your prior beliefs and shrink your tent.
I ask you to dig deep. We are at a nexus. Find and grow your empathy. Apply it to each subgroup, especially those you despise. From that will grow pity, rather than hate, and with that, strength. Fill your life with empathy. Empathy for law enforcement. For teachers. For those who publicly stumble. For those whose lives are ruined. For your black friends, crushed by daily slights and a system that seems all uphill. Empathy for our youth.
Empathy will grow your tent. It will grow us. It will provide an unstoppable force. It will allow us to change our nation, our world. We are at a point of generational change. You have power that you have only dreamed of before.
Grow your tent.
Editor’s Note: See my note on my Commentary page for more information on Will and the organization he has helped to found: Action Matters. The photo is of my daughter, Erin, embracing the world overlooking Amman, Jordan.