The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons

The Good Life: A Year of Thoughtful Seasons by Sarah Mattison Buhl

Truth Through Action:  Seeing Beyond the Chaff

We learned the basics of living a thoughtful life in Mrs. Hansen’s kindergarten class in 1974. She taught us to listen when someone else was speaking. She impressed kindness on us and admonished us not to call anyone a nasty name. She urged us to work together by taking turns and sharing what we had. She warned us sternly to keep our hands to ourselves. She told us to tell the truth. Kids needed to be reminded of those basics in order to grow up to be thoughtful adults. Some adults never learned. It is the action we take that speaks volumes, and informs others who we really are. Poet Maya Angelou famously said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”  

People are wary of their leaders in government, and this is as it should be, particularly in a democracy. Holding powerful people accountable is good, honest, political activism. At least it has been in the United States since about 1773. Interestingly, in a recent interview on Public Radio International (PRI), Russian reporter Alexy Kovalev offered this advice to the American press:

“…don’t concentrate or obsess over these nonsensical and factually untrue statements. Just concentrate on the acts, not the words.”

He offered these insights based on his twelve years as a journalist working under Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s regime. Kovalev’s interview was inspired by his recent blog post called, “A Message to My Doomed Colleagues in the American Media.” In it, he describes outrageous Twitter statements and ‘alternate truths’ as the “chaff that’s thrown out to distract you from what really matters.” Real governmental actions are quietly taken while we are busy being malicious about the First Lady’s choice of Lauren. I, too, was concerned about little Barron until my friend Mike posted, “Barron will be fine. Can we stay focused?” Which brings me to my point. What to focus on? What action? The plethora of  opportunities are raining down on Americans like a paper storm of post-it notes.  You just need to pick one, and stick with it.

First, ask yourself what it is that you are most afraid. Does your heart beat faster when you hear that veterans aren’t getting the physical and mental health care they desperately need? Call the VA. Ask them what you can do. Are you fired up about underfunded schools? Call your state representatives and let them know that public school funding is really important to you.  Then call a school and ask them how you can help. Unsure, but want to know the truth about climate change? Get in touch with the Union of Concerned Scientists and get the facts straight from the source. They have an action page right on their website. If social justice is your passion, look up the Southern Poverty Law Center to stay informed and then take the initiative to inform others.

You see, it is not only the actions of our elected officials that matter, but our own individual actions that invoke change while others are talking about what’s trending on Buzzfeed. Teaching children the patriotism of protest is activism. Writing about the importance of truth is activism. Making strategic phone calls is activism. Volunteering is activism. Do something that will show people who you really are. The rest is chaff.

Photo courtesy of Hayley Bouchard


Sarah Mattison Buhl

As a mother of three, Sarah appreciates the extraordinary beauty of the ordinary. She makes her home with her family in Northampton, MA.


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