S-T-R-E-T-C-H

I never thought that I would be expanding my blog posts to touch on the much bigger landscape of our current state of affairs. Yet here I am, using this framework to stretch the canvas and add more brushstrokes. This is my canvas and I have human stories to tell.

My first post in this series was Hearts and Minds Open — about giving ourselves some peaceful quiet to find our center — our core values, integrity, and yes, our big visions for what our future holds. I believe that it is from the space of quiet contemplation we can challenge ourselves each day to ask if our actions, our responses, our posts are supporting a better tomorrow. Not just for ourselves but for everyone.

As I scrolled through Facebook yesterday, I landed on a post about an upcoming date to boycott the NFL and football. As I read the shared post, tears started streaming down my face. It painted a picture that smacks of the blatant racism. Taken at face value, I can see why so many people are triggered, get angered and ban together believing that they are displaying true patriotism. But what was represented in that post used only one brush and two colors to paint a very complex story.

Oddly enough this seems like a great segue from my Open Hearts and Minds post. If you were to step back and take a broader perspective, stretching out the canvas, there is so much more to take in.

I would like to paint a textured vivid picture for you, using many colors, many brushes and an enormous canvas. My inspiration for this collage comes from being a part of the NFL life for the past 11 years (my son in law is a professional football player). It is personal to me because I have come to know so many people who comprise the football world. Players, wives, children, parents, siblings. I think of all the people who work in the stadiums and for many of them it is a second or third job. They feel part of a big family and are as motivated by the human connection as they are the paycheck. I have had some of the most thoughtful, heartwarming conversations with security guards, spirited elevator operators, and patient family room childcare staff members. The color of our skin was never an issue. Week to week, our friendships grew as we shared each other’s troubles and joys. The same is true for all the players’ families I have gotten to know over these past 11 years. A precious newborn girl we welcomed in Tampa Bay just turned 10 last year in Chicago. My grandchildren celebrate birthdays and major holidays with their “football family”. They refer to many of many of daddy’s teammates as “uncle.”

It may surprise you to learn that many NFL players have family members who are actively serving in our armed forces. Brothers, sisters, parents, cousins — people they love and respect. Have you thought that when these players unite for an awareness for racism, that it is a call to protect the children of their family members who are serving to protect our country?

When Colin Kapernick took that knee a few years ago, it was a non-threatening plea to have a meaningful, realistic conversation. Imagine how things might be today if we had taken it as an opportunity for change rather than a fist-raising battlecry against patriotism. It was not then and it is not now. It is a heart-wrenching, down-on-my knees plea to protect the very citizens that our armed forces commit to everyday. Doesn’t the irony of this grab you by the heartstrings?

I recently listened to the first two podcasts on John Meacham’s series “It Was Said” — a series on historical speeches with incredible impact. The first was Martin Luther King and the second was Robert Kennedy. As I listened, I was taken back in to my high school years in 1968 when all the racial unrest found us students often locked in bathrooms or auditoriums. What really saddened me is how little progress we have made as a country since 1968. Listening to Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy evoke empathy, awareness, and a vision fueled by hope and hard work made me long for that kind of messaging. That is how we make America great again — accepting the hard truths, committing to the long term work for change, uniting not dividing.

We have some of the most brilliant minds and whole-hearted people in this country. They are urging us through their books, their podcasts, their discussions to stretch — expand beyond our comfort level and soak in unfiltered, non-biased facts. Our country was built on a two party system because our founders knew that not one person, not one party has all the answers for an ever evolving free nation. Robert Kennedy talks about a bridge over the racial divide in one of his speeches. That’s what we could use right now — a bridge over our troubled waters.

Last night I listened to an interview with Malcolm Gladwell. He articulated what I have come to learn through my own personal development work. He says that he goes back to books he has written a few years ago and realizes that some of his ideas are quite different now because we have evolved (for better or worse). It inspires him — in fact it thrills him — to realize this and it keeps him going, keeps him growing. He embraces change and truth in a positive light — looking for greater opportunities and creative problem solving to reveal themselves.

Please take some quiet time to reflect on your fellow Americans through a broader perspective and an awareness that we are changing. What course corrections do we need in order to pursue a healthier vision for us all?

Deep dive with these invaluable resources:

Podcast with Brene Brown and Scott Sonenshein — Stretching & Chasing https://brenebrown.com/podcast/brene-with-scott-sonenshein-on-stretching-and-chasing/

Interview with Malcolm Gladwell — Truth, Tweets ad Talking to Strangers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=on7Wjdl_qhM&t=5s

It Was Said – Podcast series by John Meacham and C13 Originals. A limited documentary podcast series looking back on some of the most powerful, impactful and timeless speeches in American History. Available on Spotify and all the places you personally listen to podcasts.

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