A friend told about a sign hanging in a monastery that read,
Everybody wants a revolution, but nobody wants to do the dishes.
This stays with me as I process my current stage of life and the current US political situation. What does it mean to be an American living abroad, married to a Dutchman with American-Dutch kids? One leg in one country and one in the other, especially in such an important and historic time.
People readily comment on how lucky I am not to be living in the US in such divisive times, or how lucky I am to have health care, etc. These people, often American friends, are right. It is nice to be able to step away from the divisiveness and have a different perspective than if I were living in the thick of things. It is wonderful to have such good healthcare, especially as a woman in her child-bearing years. There are many things about living in the Netherlands that I’m thankful for .
Yet, there is this sense of being left out of an important part of history. Being away from my people during an important struggle. Not understanding the complex dynamics of arguments on both sides of the debate. Not knowing exactly where my family or closest friends stand, because there’s not enough hours in the day to connect about basic life events, let alone complex political issues. And technology, bless its heart, lacks the ability to allow me to be physically present, a highly underrated quality in processing complex issues. Presence, as I’m coming to understand, plays a big role in fostering and enjoying communication and relationships. People always tell me, “Thank God for technology, right?” and they are right. I am thankful for a way to connect with friends and family from ‘back home’. But it’s not the same as sitting down with someone over a cup of coffee in the same room.
And then I had a sort of ‘eureka’ moment: what I’m missing is not more information about recent political events, its the conversations about these recent political events. There is so much information out there, so many opinions so quickly formed, and therefore very little time for slow, deliberate conversation, punctuated by small pauses to listen or to think.
Right now in my phase of life–one of breastfeeding a small baby around the clock and potty training a toddler–I barely have time to talk to my husband, read a chapter in a book, or write an e-mail. But read about, digest, and converse about what is going on in my home country in order to fully understand and form wise and articulate opinions? Impossible.
But I too want to be a part of a good change. I want to help my country, to make a difference. What can I do? Sign a petition? Write a letter? Post another article to my Facebook page? The amount of information to be digested before I find out how to fight for ‘my cause’ is overwhelming. It feels probably what being buried slow motion in an avalanche feels like.
If you’re like me, sleeping three hours at a time and constantly checking your watch to see when the next feeding/potty time is, unable to keep up with all of the information, then join me in this kind of gentle revolution:
Grow your family. Stand and serve where you are. Listen to others, especially when you disagree. Journal from time to time (for me today this was twenty minutes alone in Starbucks). Be present. Listen. Engage in ‘real time’ conversations. Do the dishes. This is your tiny revolution.
Avoid the temptation to grab random fragments of news from Facebook or the internet and react immediately, just to feel a part of the conversation. Walk away the information for awhile. For me today, this means looking my little girl in the eye and asking for the twentieth time, “Do you have to go potty?”
Do I want to be a part of a good change? She is my secret weapon.