I went to a conference last week with city leaders from all over our amazing state. We came from big cities and small towns, from falling snow and from 85 degree heat. But despite our differences, we were all there because we love our communities and we want to serve them.
One beautiful morning, we had the privilege of hearing Arthur Brooks speak on the culture of contempt. Contempt is worse than dislike or hate because it means you no longer see the person on the other side. It’s a place of no return, a cold, hard ugly thing that makes dialogue and compromise impossible. It’s judgement and arrogance and we get there for many reasons- exhaustion, anger, hurt, fear. It’s a place that makes booing someone not only possible but completely acceptable. And it makes us all less.
But when I looked around that day, at the good people sharing the amphitheater with me, I saw no enemies. I saw moms and dads and grandparents. Mayors and councilmembers from all across our beautiful state. I saw spouses and teachers and lawyers and business people. All from different places with different backgrounds, belonging to different political parties. Different beliefs and educations and passions and interests. But mostly just people, glad to see each other, glad to sit in the warm sun, glad to learn and to take new ideas and best practices back to their respective communities.
If you turn on your tv, you will see talking heads who are making millions of dollars to engage in emotional warfare. They don’t live in your neighborhood and you likely won’t ever meet them in person. Their connection to you - to your real, actual life- is so fleeting as to be meaningless. And yet we give them so much power.
We all know how to be good people. It’s as simple as what we learned in our very first year as school children. Treat others as you want to be treated and if you don’t have anything nice to say, be quiet. We don’t have to agree on every single thing and we don’t have to be right about every single thing.
When you talk to someone, really talk to them, when you know about their heartaches and their worries, their insecurities and their joys, you see so much more than a mask on a face or a vote in an election or a letter behind a name. When we listen, really listen, we hear the ties that bind us, our shared anxieties, our love for our families and friends, our deep and abiding dedication to our community and our country. And when we can make connections and build relationships, we are so much bigger and better than any culture of contempt can ever be.
Please go out each day to be the light and the joy and the goodness for our world. Each person you meet will have successes and sorrows, each will have struggles. It’s our choice as to how we shape our world and our relationships. I myself will be working for civility, respect, and always, always, kindness.
Tasha Lowery is on the Draper City Council