OPINION – The photo that accompanied St. George News’s story on Donald Trump’s rally Friday evening in Salt Lake City said it all.
It was an image of a man and a woman screaming into each others faces from a distance of roughly 6 inches. It doesn’t matter who was the supporter and who was the protester. Both were completely unhinged.
This is what passes for civic involvement in American society today.
Does anyone seriously believe that anything good is accomplished by such behavior?
When’s the last time your mind changed on any subject because another person was behaving like a sociopathic spittle-flinger?
It doesn’t work that way.
Playing to fears combined with the need to dominate others never brings out the best in us. That’s hard to remember in a season where artificial division is constantly portrayed as the single most important defining factor in our lives.
It’s easy to forget that the surest way to change the world for the better has nothing to do with politics.
I suspect that most of us, at some level, are trying to be a positive influence on the world around us. We may not be living perfectly altruistic lives but we’re not trying to make anyone else’s life more difficult either.
Granted, some people choose to find purpose in attempting to inflict misery on those around them. However, there are numerous unsung heroes who choose to lift and build those around them.
I was reminded of this when my wife recommended a TED talk to me recently. The speaker was a youth advocate named Josh Shipp.
Shipp spoke of how he was a troubled at-risk kid who somehow managed to get himself kicked out of every foster home into which he was placed.
He was so effective at being a troublemaker that he began actively charting the date he was placed in each home, the date he was kicked out and his methodology for getting bounced.
Eventually this self-destructive streak came to an end when he encountered a foster dad who saw him as a prize to be won rather than a foe to be conquered.
The theme of Shipp’s message is that every kid is just one caring adult away from being a success story. The most important thing we have to offer them is our time.
The idea of making the time to personally encourage those who are struggling isn’t just limited to the young people we encounter. Simple, seemingly insignificant acts of encouragement can have long-lasting positive impact on young and old alike.
Case in point, in my faith, all members of my church congregation are given the occasional opportunity to speak in our Sunday service. Public speaking, even in this setting, can be very intimidating for many of us.
Given that I speak to thousands of radio listeners every day, it may seem odd that speaking in church would make me nervous. Well it does.
The first time I was asked to speak after moving to our new neighborhood, I immediately noticed that there was a very thoughtful woman in our congregation who did a masterful job of putting speakers at ease.
She was kind, attentive, engaged and genuinely made you feel that your message was being heard and appreciated.
Whenever my kids are assigned to speak in church, I counsel them that if they start feeling nervous to look for Sister Halladay for encouragement. It really works.
If this seems like a trivial way to make the world a better place, that’s exactly my point. Even the little things we do to lift others have real and positive impact.
The idea of being a champion for others doesn’t mean that we are looking down on them or view them as some sort of project. It means we are conscious that everyone is fighting a battle on some level and that each of us benefits from sincere encouragement.
Small acts that lift and build aren’t likely to become front page stories in a media environment that thrives on sensationalism and conflict.
They don’t require publicity to qualify as worthy efforts.
The fact is that they measurably change the world for the better in the lives of all those to whom they are directed.
If you’re beginning to burn out on the negativity and divisiveness that is dominating public discourse these days, there’s a simple solution.
Stop buying into the idea that politics is the prime motivator of all that is taking place around us. Instead, focus your time, efforts and energy on the people around you and offer encouragement to those you you find struggling.
Look for someone close to you to champion and see if it doesn’t bring a sense of purpose and contentment that politics never will.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator, radio host and opinion columnist in Southern Utah. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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