In spite of any headlines you’ve been seeing, our world is opening back up in so many encouraging ways. Over the last ten days, I’ve been in six cities, met with dozens of people, and found myself refreshingly surprised. Repeatedly. There is much movement in our great Nation and the wheels are turning powerfully behind the shroud of fear that persists in skewing so much of what we see and hear.
As necessary as it may seem after the last 12 months, the upbeat energy and hopefulness I’ve encountered during my travels has been surprising. And unexpected.
In the four states I’ve visited, the easing of mask mandates has unleashed unabated optimism. Eyes are turning from fear of the unknown to their own version of a new normal. A normal not shackled by restrictions but energized by possibility. Here, the old problems still exist but a hunger for action is emerging and new ideas are flowing,
In meetings, dinners, calls, over coffee, and wherever else we’re gathering, people are sharing dreams of good things ahead. Entrepreneurs are expanding. Technology is being developed. Decisions are being made. Movers and shakers are looking for ideas, asking questions, challenging assumptions, and demanding action. It’s happening across industries: manufacturing, finance, healthcare, education, government, distribution, information technology.
My observations are completely unscientific. No polls. No carefully crafted sampling. I’m simply talking with people, looking them in the eyes, and listening to what they’re saying. I’m walking outside and looking around. I’m moving through airports, observing. A wave is building and it’s absolutely rooted in something we’ve been lacking for awhile: that old American Spirit.
Yes, we’re all hungry for it. Sure, we’re looking for it. Looking for any signs of progress. One might say, “just because you want to see it, doesn’t mean it’s happening.” Or, they might say, “We’ve still got a long way to go. You’re vision is jaded by hope.”
Consider me jaded by hope. But that never stopped in the place where I live. All one has to do is walk outside and look around. If all you see is noncompliance, unsafe behavior, and danger around the corner, you are in for a long haul. It is a choice to live in that cramped world. If you see flowers, sunshine, people moving about, hugging, kissing, shaking hands, smiling, and laughing, then you understand what I mean.
Have the dangers disappeared? Nope. Are there nasty surprises ahead? Probably. Will you ever be safe? Never. We will continue to get sick. We will fight new and old diseases. Accidents will happen. Bad people will do bad things. We will die. And life will go on.
My friends, that is what we call “life.” To live is to exist with the unexpected. We get the option of choosing how to do that. We can expect it to hold bad things, dangerous things, and fearful things. Or, we can expect it to hold good things, bright things, and fulfilling things. Regardless, we’re going to get both. However, the choice we make will determine the level of joy we find along the way.
Over the last ten days, I’ve been surprised by the unexpected. Joyful dinners with hopeful leaders hungry for engagement, news, and fellowship. I’ve been in upbeat meetings in which engaged participants are plotting a future in which they are making definite plans, seeking definite action, and expecting positive outcomes.
I’ve talked to individuals going through job transitions, rebounding from the loss of loved ones, and contemplating their days ahead. In every case, hope for the future emerged in a laugh, twinkle in the eye, or thoughtful conversation. Each one acknowledged the difficulties, accepted the risks, and chose to live anyway.
We will continue to be surprised by the unexpected. Sometimes that surprise will be heart-wrenching, maddening, and debilitating. Sometimes, that surprise will be heart-lifting, gladdening, and inspiring. And then we’ll move on, repeating it all again. God willing.
Today, I watch the sun come over mountains holding-on to the vestiges of winter. The last remnants of snow melting in Spring’s warming touch. I see the green emerging on the hillsides and the blooms unfolding to accept the live-giving light. The warm feeling is surprising. And, unexpected. What a glorious place to be.