There is so much pain and confusion in the world today. Those in blue that have committed their lives to serve and protect are seen as enemies. Teachers who sacrifice time, energy, and even incomes to inspire are engaged more as wardens than educators. But that is the empire we are building each day with the pebbles we carefully lay. We don’t notice that we are doing it, but we are.
When we feel entitled to dialing three numbers and minutes later officers are there to serve and protect, but we don’t remember the dangers they place themselves in each and every day—we lay a pebble. When we expect our soldiers to serve numerous tours of duty but don’t consider the families they leave behind fretting each day for their safety, we lay a pebble. When we watch countless hours of TV spewing discord and distrust of the teachers, clergy, and social workers who willingly confront the bloody, jagged edges of society so we don’t have to, we lay pebbles.
Now, let me say this clearly: I’m not saying that there are not those who need to be held accountable to the jurisdictions of their profession. But I am saying loudly and clearly that when a society starts collecting pebbles of blame, distrust, and fear, they form solidly and firmly into walls of prejudice, hate and war. Before long, the walls are so high, that no one can protect us anymore because we are encaged in prisons of our own making.
But there is a remedy: Get out of the entitlement mindset and put on the “attitude of gratitude.” Before you pick up that pebble that the media so generously offers you, turn off the TV or the radio. Take a moment to offer a blessing, a word of gratitude for the hundreds of those on the front lines that are going over and beyond their “duty”. Write a few words of encouragement to any teacher, soldier, police officer, fire fighter etc. who step out sacrificially each day so you can feel secure behind your walls. You might find that pebble not so easy to cast.
And if you are really ready to change this society, find a place of prayer. Light a candle of hope, justice, and peace so we can tear down these walls and use our energy to build paths again. Then put your feet behind it. Where there is injustice—speak up—but be mindful of your pebbles.
Our country is built on the premise that “all lives matter”–no matter what race or religion. And we are famous for the paths we have laid in these areas—paths of freedom for slaves, paths of justice and civil rights (which other countries have followed), paths for women, pathways in technology, even the first footprints on the moon. Yes, we have miles to go, but now, we are known more for our walls—racism, riots, and wars. How did we lose our way?
How about this Christmas season, we take notice. Let’s be mindful of our pebbles and place them carefully not into walls, but into pathways of love, peace, kindness, forgiveness, humility, and self-control—with our words and deeds. We might find that our joy returns. We might even find that being mindful of our pebbles isn’t such a bad thing to do “full time.” Building paths of exploration and discovery has always led to more fruitful lives than building walls.
Melody Beattie says it most succinctly: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”
The pebbles we place today create the vision for tomorrow. Let’s place them carefully.