Stay calm through God

(God) produces in our souls three distinguishing

characters: tranquility, gentleness, strength.

Anxiety, intensity, intolerance and wobble—these are signs of

the self-made, self-acting soul.

--Evelyn Underhill, The Spiritual Life

I’ve spent the greater part of this week in Canada, accompanying my husband to a conference that has drawn people from all over the world. The group has focused on ways to keep our airways safer and pilots more readily aware of nearby birds with the potential to bring down an aircraft, just as we witnessed on the Hudson River some months ago.

Beyond the burgeoning new bird detecting radars and regulations, I’ve spent the week with a global community of lovely human beings. Some of our accents require us to listen to each other with greater care. And at times we must provide increased background information in order for our stories to have the impact and understanding we desire. Beyond these simple accommodations, I’m amazed at the uniformity of our experiences as professionals and parents.

And I’m moved by the decency of this group.

They have reminded me that rapper Kanye West, tennis superstar Serena Williams, and South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, who forgot his mother’s warning decades ago that you don’t blurt out what pops into your mind at a moment of great intensity, don’t represent what the great majority of us agree is decent, acceptable behavior.

“Us” is the most surprising and operative word here. Canadian papers have covered each moment of poor behavior, not by blaming Americans or outing us as the most insensitive humans on the planet, but by asking a surprisingly introspective and most assuredly global questions: Are we witnessing the death of decorum? Is rude behavior becoming our norm?

Explanations for what pressures may have prompted such public misbehaviors and their subsequent apologies aside, we have got to own up to the fact that people deserve respect, regardless of the boiling caldrons within. Regardless our personal preferences. Regardless of how hard we’ve worked to reach a particular level of expertise.

And because we share an increasing number of venues for our myriad discussions on topics spanning the globe, we had better do a whole lot better at preparing ourselves. After all, we want people to hear what we have to say. We want to give validity to our messages. We want to effect change. We want to be contributors to a better world.

I’ve seen good behavior in action during this conference in the way people discuss issues without disrespecting themselves or those in attendance. I’ve witnessed patient dialogue during one-on-one encounters in spite of differing opinions; with the understanding there will never be complete agreement, but hopefully some positive movement over time that dignifies everyone’s experiences and expertise.

This is all easier said than done, to be sure. There are explosive situations and topics that challenge even the most confrontation-phobic among us. That’s why I increasingly turn to God and call for His spirit as my guide rather than leaning on my own strength. It’s because I feel an obligation to make this one pass through life a positive one. I long to build rather than demolish. And it’s not about me. It’s not about our nation alone. Our community discussions have gone global. Our issues are more impacting. There is more to lose. Our worries are genuine.

All the while the author of peace and calm and power is there with the knowledge and reserves we require. With Him, we move forward. Without Him, the self-made soul grabs the mike, screams at the line judge, and hollers, “Liar!”

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