We’ve all heard about NFL players, coaches and even owners taking a knee rather than standing respectfully during the National Anthem. (Since I write my posts two weeks in advance, who knows what they’ll be doing by the time this appears.) I’m not quite certain what this demonstration is all about. Basically, it boils down to their conviction that in so doing, they’re making a difference.
On that last point, I think we can all agree. We’d all like to make a difference, being able to participate in making positive changes in our very – perhaps hopelessly – fractured nation and world. The question is, what does it take to truly make a difference?
Protests, peaceful and some not so peaceful, might make participants feel like they’ve accomplished something, but increasingly these events seem more like outlets for spouting venom toward anyone with different views.
They are accomplishing something – but is it positive?
Then the protests are over; after all, people have to go home and go to work. They do have to go to work, don’t they? Or take care of their families? They do, don’t they? Anyway, the protests end, but the poor are still poor, the oppressed still oppressed, the disenfranchised remain the same. What’s the end game? What has been accomplished?
Thinking about this, my friend Bryan made a good suggestion: "DO SOMETHING that really makes a difference. Be nicer to people. Treat people with respect." This goes back to following what Jesus taught nearly 2,000 years ago – loving our neighbor as ourselves, and doing for others as we would want them to do for us. If we were in dire circumstances, desperately in need of help, how would we like to be treated?
The apostle James pointed out, “What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds?... Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical need, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
In my view, this is the problem with these protests. People get riled up, voice their complaints, and then go home, but lives of the individuals they supposedly are defending remain unchanged. Their “faith” – or at least moral conviction – stops short of engaging with and helping someone in real, tangible ways. If the time, energy and resources expended during these demonstrations were concentrated instead on doing the hard work of investing time, energy and resources in face-to-face acts of service, that would truly make a difference; a difference that can be life-changing.
Although some might disagree, no amount of posturing in any form will eradicate prejudice or insensitivity. We can't legislate hate. However, we can see lasting change take place – through changed hearts, starting with our own. Sadly, it seems evident there are forces in society that don't want that, whose agendas are advanced by inciting and sustaining anger, rage, dissension and hatred. We can stand by and let that happen, or resolve not fall in lockstep with anyone intent on stirring up humanity’s darkest elements.
When we watch the evening news, or read certain periodicals or postings on the Internet, it would appear hatred among various peoples has never been greater. But that’s not my experience or observation. I interact with people of different ethnicities and cultures often, whether at the YMCA, the mall, work, or spending time together at a restaurant. And I see others doing the same, with kindness, respect and mutual appreciation displayed openly and genuinely.
This isn’t to say there aren’t problems, because we all know there are. In some cities, more so than others. But we don’t have to be part of the problems – instead, we can choose to be part of the solutions. As one social media post wisely urged recently, “Turn off the news and love your neighbor.” Why listen to people harping about how bad things are when we can demonstrate how good things can be? That’s what Jesus would do.
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.