It’s easy to focus on the bad things happening in the world. This week, Otto Warmbier died, having been in a coma for over a year at the hands of North Korean prison guards. I can’t imagine the pain his parents went through, knowing that their college-aged son was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for supposedly taking down a propaganda poster. In addition, yesterday the group of 13 all-male US Senators finished the draft on health care, which will make care too expensive for millions of Americans, and make being a woman and having children a liability. I do wonder if these men remember that all people come from women’s bodies, and that they would not be alive if it weren’t for their mothers. To penalize women for needing maternal health care if unconscionable. Then there’s the Philandro Castile trial, in which a cop was acquitted of shooting a black man simply because his car’s tail light was out. If this had been a white man shot, the trial would have ended differently. And then there’s hate crimes and global warming that our administration doesn’t recognize. It’s enough to make one think that life is pretty bad. But it isn’t.
There have always been bad things going on throughout history: wars, famine, fires, drought, plagues, and cycles of evil despots. Children used to regularly die of small pox. Women used to often die in childbirth. Education used to just consist of a one room school house for everyone except the very wealthy. Slavery used to be legal. But with all of our advances, we still see every day how much violence and despair there is in the world, and it’s hard to feel hopeful.
And yet, a few days ago, I was walking around a lake near our home on a gorgeous afternoon with azure blue skies and perfectly formed clouds, and a group of geese gathered to navigate launching themselves into the water. Watching them made me smile. They took turns and didn’t push, and one by one, they managed to all slide into the water and then swam together in formation. This week, my 14 year-old daughter returned home from a school trip to France. As my husband and I waited for her outside the big immigration doors, we felt so grateful to have the ability to travel almost anywhere in the world and be welcome with our passports. This was the first time I had been to the international section of the airport this year, since Trump’s attempts at the travel bans. It was so heartwarming to see every possible race, religion, and country streaming through the doors. We saw women in head scarves with young children, a few older Indian women in full saris, hip Europeans in tight jeans and cool t-shirts, and an old Korean couple meeting up with their grandson, among others. We also got a text from our daughter before she emerged through the doors, letting us know that her group was delayed because one of her classmates, who is Chinese, forgot his visa, and was being questioned by immigration officials. He ultimately got through with no problem, but we were reminded of what so many people go through when traveling, and how lucky we are.
When you feel the world’s despair, remember to focus on what you are grateful for. I often have my clients list all the little things that they love, since it’s particularly helpful for those who feel stuck or lost. Once they remember what they love– whether tulips or swimming in a lake or snuggling with their children– then they can get clarity for the rest. To find your world stage, remember that the world has always been broken. As Leonard Cohen once wrote: “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” Don’t let the cracks get in the way of your daily joy. Today, go find a sunny spot and enjoy watching the geese play.