Posted by: MC | September 10, 2012

Post National Conventions – the Anniversary Celebration of a Brain Tumor

This morning a friend in Omaha told me about Sam, a friend of his who was off for ten days on a third anniversary trip to the particular beauty of the Colorado Rockies around Estes Park. My friend has spoken of Sam before, describing him as a notably successful businessman who’s built a thriving company that supplies materials for building or renovating homes.  Sam’s success, though, is lately not enough to bring the meaning to his life for which he (like pretty much all of us) longs.

Instead of avoiding the discomfort of that kind of circumstance, Sam is living right in the middle of the uncertainty.  A primary catalyst to this unease occurred three years ago when his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“Did you say celebrate?” I asked my friend.  “Yeah.  She’s still alive three years later.  They’re celebrating.”

Indeed.  Celebration instead of fearful spin in worry and the panicked need to fix it.  Wow.

I am inspired by Sam and his wife.  I imagine the vivid sky behind mid-September Rockies and think that setting is only perfect as a reflection of the courage, presence and joy in their matter-of-fact celebration of being alive.

Here in the receding tide of the country’s national political conventions, I’m also seeing Sam and his wife as particularly powerful and timely teachers.

Whether you saw any of the TV or internet coverage of those gatherings, it’s highly unlikely you missed being aware they were happening.  Their unavoidable effect was fueled in too large part, but perhaps by their nature, by sensationally exaggerating their opposition.  In conversations overheard on the bus, in restaurants and coffee shops, on the sidewalk, and in not-so-idle chit chat among my own friends, family and neighbors the stark differences between Romney/Ryan and Obama/Biden generated both astonished and smugly knowing commentary.  “You’d think we were in Civil War,” a man said to a neighbor he had chanced upon near the mound of broccoli in Fred Meyer’s vegetable section.

Then there was the experience I had Saturday – working with Alex Ward, audio producer/artist extraordinaire, who is creating podcasts for some of 100 Voices – Americans Talk about Change.  We’d been working for over a month on lining out the idea and writing script for my part.  On Saturday we were in the studio and I tried my hand at the genre of radio magazine.  That stuff is harder than Ira Glass makes it sound – to be energized but not too, to be conversational instead of even remotely sounding like I’m reading.  It took way more concentration than I’d ever imagined.  I can’t say I’ve mastered it – but I’m getting better.

Anyhow, that work, together with talking with Alex and his friend Sean, another man in his early 20’s, reminded me again of the evidence from both my road trips.  The first one, during the Obama administration’s first 100 days in 2009 had revealed so much more in common than at odds across everyday American citizens.  That’s the trip that led to the book.  Then there was the repeat trip just this past winter (2012) where I got to see what groups of everyday Americans think of the 100 Voices’ radical idea of listening to each another.

Again this winter, what people said about their dreams and hopes and concerns was vastly similar.  They were protective of their differences, but not to the point of being unwilling to consider what it might mean for us to listen to each other.  No matter whether the group was in a Presbyterian church in rural Texas, an ocean-view living room in Santa Barbara, a living room in Decatur or Marietta, GA (the former considered the state’s most progressive/blue city, the latter considered the most conservative/red city in one of the country’s most homogeneously conservative counties); in every setting, people were leaning forward in their chairs, non-defensively engaged in considering the notion of working together without having to give up what we believe.

I’m not making this up.  And today, it’s what Sam and his wife so poignantly and unintentionally reflect for all of us.

We’re here together.  There are a lot of ways we get along and perhaps more ways that we are similar in what we prize the very most – like our loved ones – like the opportunity to be in these lives with those loved ones, and with the astonishing beauty of the world around us.

Yes, there’s courage in looking to and living from what’s working.  And that way of living in no way precludes the necessity of dealing with problems and difficulties that are also the nature of life.  But the troubles look so vastly different when where we’re standing in the middle of conscious acknowledgement all that has gone and is going right.

Sam and his wife show me that today.  The 100 Voices and the people around the country who talked with me about the book this winter – they show me, too.  But, finally, it doesn’t matter if I’m convinced.  You must check it out for yourself.

Read the book if that seems interesting.  Listen to the podcasts when they start up in October at  And listen in as you’re walking your own halls and sidewalks or in your own chats with friends – or even with strangers.

I’ll be interested in hearing what you find.

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