How many of us run away from pain? It’s something we all do. How many of us right now are in pain? I’m sorry to say that millions of our brothers and sisters in this country and around the world are in pain. We are all facing difficult decisions and uncertainty. We are dealing with anger — feeling excluded and invisible. It’s a pain we don’t show on the outside but one that runs deep within. It’s the kind of pain that can only be relieved by support, empathy and opportunity.
When we run away from pain, we run toward each other. Doesn’t that seem to be what we’re doing? You don’t hear about it, certainly don’t read about it, but you can see it if you look. We are coming together, leaning on each other, lifting each other. When we go toward each other’s pain, we actually discover the tender, compassionate, strong sense that we are more together than we are apart. It’s the basis for a growing sense of unity.
I’m crazy enough to think that it is the biggest story emerging in our country right now. The problem is that unity just doesn’t get any play. What does get play is hatred. What does get play is outrage. What does get play is violence. You and I both understand why. But a sense of unity is building. It is growing. It’s an important story and one that we are all hungry to hear.
This sense of being united is not just an abstract thing. It is a concrete manifestation of the inner heart that has each of us reaching out across all our divisions: racial, social, economic and political.
I’m not saying that people are starting to agree on everything. What I am saying is more of us are beginning to listen to each other and to hearing each other. Don’t you feel that listening deepens our wisdom and our understanding? Listening is the best way to come to terms with our own opinions and beliefs. Listening is how we have always advanced our principles. It never happens through hatred and distrust. Hatred does not change minds and does not change people, and I think deep down we all know that.
I do think people are looking for a sense of oneness, realizing there must be a better way than racism, classism and sexism, a better way than the loss of virtue and faith. People are realizing both sides have an argument. Both sides are asking good questions. It’s time now to bring the best of our ideas together. We can build a future with greater justice and more joy. It’s there. It’s emerging. It’s in front of us. We won’t find it in hate, but we will find it in unity.
Timothy Shriver holds a doctorate in education and is a disability rights advocate, CEO of UNITE and author of “Call to Unite: Voices of Hope and Awakening.” He is the son of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, and Sargent Shriver, founder of the Peace Corps.