ISIS seizing Iraq. Syria suffering under Assad. Putin shamelessly invading Ukraine. Michael Brown dead in Ferguson. Beheadings of beloved journalists. Ebola spreading like wildfire.
The seemingly endless barrage of violent crises and human devastation around the world this summer has left me feeling an underlying sadness to all of the otherwise joyful events of a season of Saturday morning bouquets from the farmer’s market, sunning lakeside with friends, and starlit evenings with a glass of wine.
More than one thing can be true. I’ve repeated this phrase so often my friends mimic me when I get into my “either/or” thinking. As we observe the anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy, I consider anew how more than one thing can be true.
I have never had my village slaughtered, huddled with my toddler under plastic sheeting in a refugee camp, or risked being killed for my faith, my skin color, or my profession.
And yet I manage to make a multitude of petty complaints on any given day. From the quality of service in a restaurant to a broken fingernail, I make the minor matters seem like they really mean something.
Then I hear of the news of the world and am reminded anew of the suffering around the globe. A wave of slight shame comes over me.
Where is my gratitude, I ask? Each day I awake to the privilege of being born white in America with a healthy body and a good education. Each day I have a job I love, working with extraordinary people. If I am grateful for all of my blessings, how is it that I find myself wallowing in what, by comparison, present as pitifully puny parts of an amazingly blessed life?
More than one thing can be true.
Others may have great suffering and I might also have suffering.
I may be unable to bring peace to the Middle East and I can make peace in my family.
I can have compassion for refugees and I can have compassion for myself.
If you are experiencing divorce and you notice yourself diminishing your grief, loss, fear, or loneliness – don’t. Allow yourself to experience the feelings that are yours. Recognize that the suffering of others does not transcend your own. Remember that the season of your life mandates that you honor it. Feel and do that which is yours to feel and do during this time.
I ask myself, on this anniversary of 9/11 and in this season of my life, what is mine to be? It is not to be paralyzed by the heartbreak of war, disease, and genocide. That I know for sure.
I choose to let it be this: Enjoy the blue sky of September. Write a check for a political candidate I believe in. Send a message to a friend in a foreign country. Take a long soak in the tub and more than a few deep breaths.
There is mine to do and mine to let go of. More than one thing can be true.