Dan Heffernan

Unsettling Times

Unsettling times. On so many levels.

The last year has been a challenging one for millions of people. If we look at broad strokes, bigotry, racism, poverty, violence, and hatred all raised their ugly heads at points during the year in the US and abroad. Across the Americas we witnessed oppressive regimes cracking down on their opponents violently and fatally. Radical, extremist groups killed and wounded across the globe in various attacks. Greed flourished. Power dictated. Scandal abounded. It has been a year that proved that humans can really be horrible to one another.

A bit closer to home, many of us experienced the difficulties of our human condition: friends and relatives were diagnosed with terminal illnesses, addictions were revealed, mental illness identified, and loved ones passed away.

Where do we find security at unsettling times like these? A friend of mine recently said that just when we get to the age where we think we’ll be pretty settled, life becomes more unsettling. Kids go, come back, and go again. A widowed neighbor of his met a widower, married him and moved away. My friend and his wife thought they’d grow old with their life-long neighbors.

Wall Street provides anxiety if you fancy following it. Major corporations have major layoffs. Businesses that were thriving now struggle.

Natural disasters seem to abound. Hurricanes, tornados, floods, avalanches, earthquakes and volcanoes destroy indiscriminately.

Okay, Dan, that’s enough. What’s your point?

My point is that we must find joy or we’ll crumble in such circumstances. In the midst of suffering, we must find a healthy way to cope. For some people, they lean on their relationships: family, friends, colleagues. For others they have an outlet in art, writing, activism, community service, cooking, cleaning, exercise, or sports.

In the past 12 months, my wife’s native country collapsed both politically and economically, our son graduated from college, we became grandparents, my father died and our daughter became engaged to be married. That’s a lot of emotional stuff. Some would call it an emotional roller coaster. Thankfully, the joyful events produced enough joy to get through the tragedies. My wife’s compatriots cope with the situation in her country by making jokes about it. Our faith also helped us to deal with the difficulties.

Through it all, we needed to still be parents, now grandparents, siblings, children, aunt and uncle, friends, and the best versions of ourselves that we can be. Good can overcome evil, and there is a lot of good in the world. I know very few truly evil people. Most of the people I know are good, decent, moral, intelligent, thoughtful, purposeful human beings.

Let’s not lose faith in humanity.

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