Published On: Wed, Jan 11th, 2012

A change in heart – but not of heart

Not much in this world is static today. Life changes, the weather changes
and our personalities change (for better or worse).

But there is one thing that should stay the same – and that is tolerance for
each other. If you have seen any of the recent political debates you might
think we were living in a war zone. Instead of seeing the good in each other,
candidates (and their followers) have been attacking each others’ values,
skin color and belief systems.

And it seems to be a national pastime.

In recent years wise men (and women) made sure they did not talk about
two subjects in public – religion and politics. But today you have to walk a
fine line in the sand about everything. At a recent dinner with friends I was
asked who I might vote for in the next election. Without missing a beat,
I mentioned the name of my political favorite. The next thing I knew this
candidate was being blamed for everything from lack of world peace to job
losses.

And then the moment of reckoning came blasting into my face like a cool
gust of wind. “Are you a socialist,” I was asked. Gee, I thought, I am a good
bargain shopper, a kind and loyal friend and a night person – but a socialist,
I don’t think so.

And then I got to thinking. It’s Fox News verses MSNBC, the mainstream
media verses The Tea Party, Blacks against Whites, homophobes against
gays, rich against poor and big government against small government. How
did we get here?

And then I thought about my late friend Mary Howard, who grew up in
Alabama and moved to South Florida. Mary loved everyone and was
beloved by everyone she met. When she was harassed at her job, she never
got angry or bitter. “When I was a private duty nurse I took whatever harsh
words they put on me and looked back with a smile. I learned that kindness
is the best medicine to end discrimination.”

That is one reason that Mary has a spot on the Wall of Tolerance in
Montgomery, Alabama. It’s also the reason everyone loved Mary so much,
she was a bright light in our flickering world.

One person who would never make the Wall of Tolerance is my upstairs
neighbor. Just last week she railed against me for letting a moving truck park
in her spot. Even though she does not have a car, she was livid. “You are
disrespecting me by letting them park in my space,” she screamed. As much
as I tried to act like Ghandi I succumbed to a blistering showdown of words.

And then I realized that she is just a nice lady acting badly. I also realized
that if I want to see the world the way Mary did or the way Ghandi did,
then I have to put on rose colored glasses (and a smile in my heart) and be
tolerant of other people’s foibles and idiosyncrasies.

Although it may take a lifetime, it is something dharmic to aspire to. And
not only that, it beats the moniker of disrespectful socialist.

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