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Moving Forward

Lessons Learned After the Election

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It's been a long several months here in the US. Our oversized share of COVID-19 cases and deaths, civil unrest and an effort to achieve racial justice, and an election that created record turnouts.

 

Personally, people have experienced illness, and sadness, and loss, and financial instability. Professionally, operations and activities have had to be reinvented, reimagined, and some simply abandoned. 

 

Themes I continue to hear on a daily basis are an increased sense of anxiety, an increased sense of loneliness, and an increased sense of unease about what the future holds.

 

Nothing made that clearer to me than the photos I saw Tuesday night of the cities, like Denver, for example, all boarded up in anticipation of rioting in the aftermath of the election. Businesses and city leaders of some urban areas added plywood and other reinforcements to protect property at street level. People across the nation are anticipating the worst, because we've come to expect that from each other.

 

As we as these United States seek to move forward from this week's election process, there are a few of things we can learn 

 

Civic engagement is possible.

We had record turnouts across the country this election. People chose to actively engage. We were reminded that our vote matters, and that we each have a voice. Droves of people worked together to make sure that there was a safe way for this civic engagement, even amidst a pandemic, and countless volunteers showed up to help keep the process moving forward. Let's not let that end here. Let's stay engaged, and let's work together to make a positive difference in each and every community around this country. Volunteer, get involved, co-create greatness in your neighborhood.

 

Waiting is hard.

There were analysts and commentators who tried to tell us in advance that we might not have a clear-cut answer on Tuesday night, but we hoped and we watched anyway. And Wednesday, many folks wandered through their days, hitting "refresh" over and over, feeling somehow relieved that the robocalls and smear ads had ended, but feeling unsettled, uncertain, and unsure how to move on. Without exception, every person I talked to on Wednesday was in that same space of uncertainty, but those who were most productive, most engaged, most successful were those who had found ways to engage their minds on something else. We all know waiting is hard, but it's at least a little easier when we have something else to think about. When there is a period of waiting ahead, find ways to occupy your time. 

 

Love your neighbor.

Did you see how many of the returns came back so close to evenly split? The people who agreed with your view were about half, and those who took a different view were also about half. That means that the people who disagreed with your view, in many cases, weren't the extreme exception, they were Chris and Jesse next door. Instead of railing against them, shutting them out as potential friends, turning the rhetoric to hate, couldn't we invite them to dinner? Not necessarily to change their mind, but rather to understand their perspective, to learn something, to grow. Or better yet, let’s find a way to volunteer alongside them to demonstrate our character and help others in the process.

 

Sportsmanship.

I wish there was a less athletic-focused and more gender-inclusive term...but I can't seem to come up with one. In a presidential election (as in so many cases), there can be only one winner. The grace demonstrated by the individual who does not win, the behaviors they display in their disappointment, will have a lasting impact on the rest of us. Do they stomp off in a huff, do they "take their marbles and go home" as we used to say growing up, do they poison the well for those who remain, do they tie us all up in legal battles, or do they shake hands, and say, "congratulations, how can I help?" Ostensibly, anyone running for any seat in this recent election was running for the office of public servant, and what better way to serve than to help the next person get things done? We teach our kids at ballgames to shake hands after a game, and while I know the handshake analogy is dated in a pre-COVID way, the idea behind it is hopefully not lost. Here's hoping we can demonstrate good "gamespersonship" and do no harm.

 

There is much work ahead.

As I type this, the outcome is not yet known. Perhaps that's still true as you read this. But something is broken in our society, and we must work to fix it. Our society, where murder can be committed in broad daylight with no one stopping it because the imbalance of power is too great, needs repair. Our society, where two different political parties say they are defending the most vulnerable while each side causes harm to others, needs to care more and protect better. Our society, where the gap between socio-economic groups is so great that the sides often cannot even hear let alone understand each other, needs to listen more. Our society, that has created a set of social media tools that could connect us and then allowed them to divide us, needs healing. There is much work ahead, repairing, protecting, listening, healing. And we can do that work together if we try.

 

2020 has brought us some dark moments, but if we take the time to learn the lessons this year has afforded us, and if we take the time to listen to those around us and are willing to help where we can, we can get better.

 

No matter what happens with this election, we will be back in a period of change. Here are a few reminders for different emotions you may be feeling. 

 

 

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About the Author

Sinikka Waugh

Sinikka Waugh is a recognized leader in understanding people and in adapting tools, techniques, and processes to meet the demands of the situation at hand. Since 2006, Sinikka has provided compassionate leadership in transformation initiatives. When she isn’t in front of a class, she enjoys putting her background in English and French Literature to work, by writing blogs about the subjects she teaches every day.


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