One Word to Sum Up Our New Future:

One more political-ish post. And then hopefully not another until (at least) the next election. I’m so glad it’s finally over. Give us at least a couple weeks to recover, media. Please.

People are feeling stuff today. It started at sunrise as I drove to work and interacted with a coffee barista and fellow coworkers and students and it continues with reactions on Twitter and Facebook and everywhere else I look online.

People are stunned.

People are disheartened.

People are spiteful.

People are overjoyed.

People are relieved.

People are hopeful.

People have no idea.

Somewhere in the middle of all that I find myself navigating: a millennial in this blue zone of the Blue Ridge amid a red state and a redder region, someone with ties — strong or loose, but ties nonetheless — to Christianity and the LGBT community and friends and family who love Trump and others who love Clinton and others who voted third party and others who stayed home.

Everyone’s feeling something today, and I don’t entirely know what I’m even feeling myself — just that I feel it all with you. Curse this empathy.

“I’d like everyone to go around the circle and say one or two words that express what you’re feeling this morning,” the mindfulness instructor said this morning amid a circle of staff and students.

“Anxious,” one said.

“Pissed off,” said another.

On and on it went, mostly negative reactions to last night’s events, until it got to me. What on earth was I feeling?

“Empathetic,” I said. Amid a myriad of adjectives and thoughts and emotions, that was all I could figure to say. I think it was about as accurate as I could get in a single word.

I hear where everyone’s coming from, and I feel especially for the ones who fear the worst has jumped upon them, threatening them and what they hold dear. One student shared his own unique story, one laced with very real fears and possibilities for the future, and it helped me see into his anger and frustration today. It’s a glimpse into his story I didn’t have until this election.

I guess what I want to get across is this: listen to each other. When Obama was elected eight years ago, my mostly Christian circles went up in arms. They thought their religious freedoms and conservative values would be stripped and tarnished, and you might have thought the world was ending.

But it didn’t end. We’re still here. We’re still surviving. Some of us better than others. But our story continues.

Now eight years later, many of the folks in these same Christian circles are certainly rejoicing, and maybe they have reason to rejoice and maybe they don’t. Time will tell what our new president-elect does and doesn’t do. If he’ll live up to supporters’ expectations or fall short as humans are prone to do.

Happy or not, secure or threatened, I hope we all learn to listen to each other more. I guess it comes more naturally to me (again, curses), but I hope we all give this thing a shot.

Hearing each other out.

Getting vulnerable.

Supporting each other even if — when — we disagree.

My experience working with youth — from academic to recreational to therapeutic — has helped hone my empathetic spirit. I used to get so fired up and angry about elections and gay people and Westboro Baptist Church.

But now I know we all have hurts. We all have past failings. We all have reasons for behaving the way we behave, believing the things we believe, and living the story we lead.

Empathy. Let us all embrace a spirit of empathy right now. Let us all have a chance to sigh if we need to sigh, scream if we need to scream, cry if we need to cry, and listen.

Let’s listen to the other stories in this circle and learn things we never knew before. If my travels around the continent have taught me anything, it’s taught me this:

Red and blue.

Young and old.

Christian and atheist.

Gay and straight and somewhere in between.

We are so alike. And we have so much more to offer.

This is Day 9 of #MakeNovemberTolerable. Keep checking back every day this month for new stories and discoveries of beauty where beauty may be hard to find.