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Election Day 2016 was a 27 hour day for me. I spent most of the day in the air and in airports. I was traveling from Kingston, Ontario, through three time zones, to San Diego, California, to speak at the Christian Reformed Church pastors’ wives retreat. My Facebook status that day read: “Carrying my American passport, wearing my Canadian sweatshirt, and traveling through three American airports today on my way to San Diego. I am feeling connected and free at the same time. In so many ways.”
Weeks before, I had voted by mail for the person I thought would be the first female president of the United States. As I flew over the Great Lakes and the Great Plains and the great Rocky Mountains, I alternated my gaze between the view through my window and the election day coverage on the screen on the seat in front of me. The woman sitting next to me was also watching the news. We were watching two different stations. “I voted my values,” she said. “So did I,” I said.
I fell asleep in my hotel room that night to the news that Donald Trump was winning. And I woke to the news that he had won. In that moment, I felt far away from home. In so many ways.
I curled up in a chair by the window, sipping my coffee and looking over my notes for that morning’s talk. What was I going to say to these women? My American colleagues in ministry had a few days to find words to speak into The Morning After. I had hours. Should I tell them right out of the gate that I was grieving? No. As true as that would be, this would divide the room. Should I ignore it? No. I would miss an important opportunity to pastor this group in the midst of a particularly polarizing morning.
And so, I decided to name the variety of experiences in the room. First, I acknowledged that some of the women were Canadian and perhaps not as invested in the outcome of the election. And then I said, “Some of you are quietly celebrating, and some of you are quietly grieving.” I named the internal conflict I was feeling: wanting to say what was so for me without disconnecting from those who saw things differently. And then I encouraged us all to lean hard into our core values– to remember what was most important to us and to organize our behaviour and our speech accordingly. I shared the values I hold: authenticity, integrity, courage, love, and curiosity. And I promised to do my best to keep those at the centre of my work with them that week.
I am writing this blog post on Election Day 2018 for publication on The Morning After. Just like in 2016, I am speaking to a group of people (writing to a group of readers) in the immediate wake of national decision-making. Unlike in 2016, I do not, at the time of writing, know the outcomes of election day.
But again, just like in 2016, my encouragement for all of you is the same now as it was then. Stay defined, while remaining connected to those who see things differently. Lean hard into what is most important to you. Organize your behaviour and speech accordingly.
If you find that we have elected people who are committed to leading the country in a way that is consistent with the core of your understanding of the gospel, build bridges to those who are disappointed today.
And if you find that we have elected people who are committed to leading the country in a way that is inconsistent with the core of your understanding of the gospel, keep finding ways to do the things you have been called to do to live the gospel. And, yes, build bridges to those who are rejoicing today.
Frances Hesselstein, former CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, once spoke about how all of us have more power than we think we do. Though it is rarely raw or visible, “you always have power,” she said, “if you just know where to find it. There is the power of inclusion, and the power of language, and the power of shared interests, and the power of coalition. Power is all around you to draw upon.”*
I sign off with this blessing, the morning after: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope, by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
* As quoted by Jim Collins in Good to Great and the Social Sectors.