I got a rash on my face for Christmas this year.
It was a gift, or, at least it was the byproduct of a gift that was given with the best of intentions.
And because of that, I almost didn’t write about it.
I didn’t write about a lot of things in 2017.
That’s partly because I had so much on my plate that I couldn’t find the energy at the end of a day or week to collect my thoughts in a coherent manner.
My lack of writing was partly because there was just too much going on to address anything in a timely manner. The man currently occupying the Oval Office said and did so many mind-numbing, jaw-dropping, embarrassing things, that something I wrote on Saturday morning would already be obsolete by that afternoon because of his latest tweet, or handshake, or speech or attempt to drink water with two hands.
And I didn’t write much this year because I live with my greatest critics. And sometimes not writing is easier than dealing with the aftermath of someone feeling misquoted or offended or embarrassed by my interpretation of events.
Which brings us right back to the rash on my face, which is the direct result of a thoughtful Christmas gift that my husband gave me. And, at risk hurting his feelings by sharing with the world that the itchy bumps on my face are his fault, I’m doing it anyway.
That’s because as 2017 ends, the rash symbolizes so much more than my husband’s misguided attempt to help me relax by giving me scented spray for pillows and linens (a spray to which I am apparently allergic).
It’s about having survived almost an entire year (starting on Friday January 20, to be exact) in which our country has been subjected to a rash leader whose impulsive tendencies are causing much bigger problems than just an irritating itch.
Unfortunately, I can’t change the leadership problem in this country as easily as I changed the sheets and pillowcases doused with the rash-causing spray. But that doesn’t mean I have to tolerate it nor should I be silenced.
A rash isn’t just irritating, it can be dangerous when untreated. The same goes for rash people. And there is no shame in trying to address the root of the problem or finding an antidote.
Here’s to making that a breakthrough discovery in 2018.
Every year, we Americans set aside the fourth Thursday of November to express gratitude for all we have. This year, I have a very long list, and at the top are friends who are smarter than I am, more generous than I am and stronger than I am. I appreciate these friends not only for their gifts but because they challenge me to be a better person.
Just this week, one such friend put a situation into perspective.
We had just attended an event about childhood poverty. I’d played a small part in helping organize the event, and my friend served as a discussion group facilitator. When the event was over, she called me to debrief.
“Here’s my issue,” she said. “We asked participants to brainstorm ideas about how we could address poverty in our community and you know what members of my group did?
“What?” I asked.
“They identified specific strategies for the families struggling with poverty, for community organizations and for schools,” she said. “What no one discussed is what each of us can personally do It’s like they think caring is enough. That will never be enough. We each have to personal responsibility.”
My friend is smarter than I am, and she is absolutely right.
Personal responsibility has become a catch phrase for people who are facing financial and other crises. It is rarely used regarding “the rest of us” who are paying our bills and are able to manage our lives fairly well.
But until children are no longer living in poverty, we are all facing a crisis and we are all personally responsible.
Yet so many of us want to point fingers and place responsibility on others.
As my friend noted, we have to stop.
We all need to look in the mirror and ask “What can I do?” Not what can my community do? What can my agency do? What can my school do? Or even what can my church do?
Handing responsibility to others is often easier than handing it to ourselves, and this Thanksgiving I am grateful for my friend, and all the other individuals, who truly understand that. When more and more people begin to take such personal responsibility, only then will we be able to truly begin to solve the complex issues of child poverty.
And when that happens, we will have even more reason for thanks giving.