by Neal Lemery
We live in challenging times, but we have always wrestled with difficult problems that defy easy solutions. This work often involves difficult and often divisive conversations and involve our full range of emotions and problem-solving talents.
Hard problems require diverse voices and a tapestry of viewpoints and possible answers. They are the task of the entire village. There often is not one easy quick fix, springing from the mind of one person.
We are all impacted by a problem in many ways. For those of us who choose to be problem-solvers, the response is multi-faceted, and calls each of us to do our own part. We are responsive and we are mobilized. It is a work in progress.
“The aim of argument, or of discussion, should not be victory, but progress.” – Joseph Joubert
We each do our part. Yet, I still want immediate solutions and overnight success. I’m impatient. Political rancor and derisive comments simply get in my way, keeping me from the ultimate goals of seeking positive, meaningful, and long-lasting change.
Sure, there’s more we want to do, more that we need to learn, that we need to change and build a stronger community. This is not easy work.
We persist. The lists of our solutions , how we respond and what we need to do are impressive. After all, Americans are “can do” people, builders and problem solvers.
Our collective ingenuity, work ethic, and “build it better” attitude has created a vibrant society rich in achievements and possibilities. The crossed off items on our to do list is long, but so are the items left undone. We keep learning that when our responses are focused on solutions, great progress can be made. In all this work, in all these challenges, I remain optimistic.
We have many tools. When we channel our individual concern, anger, and drive to take on a difficult issue, our differences can be used as fuel for collaboration and furthering concrete steps toward finding and implementing part of our responses and build toward solutions.
How do we do this work? One step at a time, one person at a time, with a wide range of voices and thinking. Many in the sobriety recovery community work the Twelve Steps and the “one day at a time” concept. We know that approach works. That attitude, that methodology has worked well for us in the past. It works well today and will serve us as we move ahead.
What works is when we get together, share our ideas, collaborate, and work towards effective solutions. Together, we know what works.
No one has a magic wand, a silver bullet, for our addiction crisis or other social issues that often seem enormous and overwhelming. The topics can seem too big, too complex, too painful for a simple solution. A solitary idea is not the “one size fits all” answer that we would hope to find. We know the causes are often deeply engrained in us, as individuals, family members, and are components of a complex, diverse society.
Yet, we often minimize the strength of one person to make a difference, to voice an idea or some kind and helpful words, and take some steps in the right direction. A recent movie, Four Good Days, takes a personal look at a family’s struggle with addiction and recovery. It shows the pain, the struggle, and hope. There is such life-changing, astonishing power in the passion of one person to change.
“We may sometimes feel that we can’t do much as individuals; together we can make a difference. As individuals we can influence our own families. Our families can influence our communities and our communities can influence our nations,” the Dalai Lama writes.
In this work of change, leaders emerge and inspire us. Leadership often arises unexpectedly, but often gives us astonishingly clear direction and hope.
Each of us makes a difference. I think we can agree we want to advance, to move forward, to find and implement steps that work. Using our “disagreement” energies, there is much common ground. There is development of a collective will to make a difference to move toward success. We agree more than we disagree on fundamentals.
When we have these challenging conversations, perhaps we can see our differences as merely different views, different experiences, and different parts of a collective response, and our collective strength. Such work taps into the richness, the viability of a diverse society, with varied responses to be discovered and implemented.
Finding the common good should be our collective aim. We should not be focused on our differences and instead we need to use them to fuel the needed collective change.
“When one door closes, another opens. But we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that is open for us.” —Alexander Graham Bell
Today, I can change myself by doing something kind, thoughtful, and helpful. By listening, caring, being present, and acting with the intention of doing good in the world – I can make a difference. Maybe that difference at first is just for me, but like a stone thrown in the water, that goodness ripples out, and can change my family, my neighborhood, my community, and the world. Think of the possibilities for not just you, but for all of us.
Those are the tasks of each of us, and for our community.