The only thing to fear is fear itself. Man that is a genius quote. You’ve heard it, right? It’s from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural speech back in 1933. Things were tumultuous then. Things are tumultuous now. And we wonder how we can move forward; how we can conquer the fear. Here’s what I’m thinking:
It’s totally natural to have fear. Fear of heights. Fear of public speaking. Fear of starting a new year at school, a new job, a new relationship. Fear of riding on a plane for the first time or, if you’re like me, fear of bats (ugh).
So often, this fear comes from a place of ignorance, irrationality, or preconceived notions. It doesn’t make the fear any less valid, but it’s incredibly important to acknowledge its source.
But this emotion – fear – it can’t control us. Think of all the times you’ve overcome your fears: You started that new job and kicked ass. You rode on a plane and went thousands of miles in a few hours (wow!). You conquered something that was holding you back, and it was exhilarating. When you realize you can take on your fears, you can do anything.
Fear of each other and our differences – these are the fears I want to talk about today. So much of what’s wrong with the world right now stems from not understanding or being willing to accept that all of us humans are different.
You and your wife? You are totally different, right? (Think about how you load the dishwasher, amIright?) Your best friend is not exactly like you either, thank goodness. Otherwise you’d never be able to kick each others’ butts into gear when you need it.
What else? Your Muslim neighbor worships her God differently than you worship yours. Your atheist co-worker goes on a hike in the woods every Sunday. The cashier at the grocery store doesn’t own a television while the person grabbing organic pears in the produce aisle is a Game of Thrones aficionado. We all love to do different things.
But the fear comes from thinking that one way is the right way. It festers and grows and fear becomes hate that becomes, maybe, evil. Then it all leads to war and terror and hate crimes and a whole bunch of isolated, disconnected people.
So we ask ourselves: What can we do? It’s too big! What can we do?!
Don’t worry – there’s always something we can do.
Maybe we all love chocolate chip cookies. I bet we might. Try making some for your neighbors – especially the ones you haven’t met yet.
I’m certain we all love laughing. And I’m with Buddy the Elf – smiling’s my favorite. Smile at the people you cross paths with on the street. Look them in the eye. Especially if your first thought is to look away. Make eye contact. Smile. It’s simple.
We’re all looking for connections. Strike up a conversation with a person in a crowd that looks out of place. Odds are they want to be welcomed in – otherwise they wouldn’t be in that crowd. Don’t assume they’re strange or weird or dangerous. They’re definitely not like you – no one is – and that’s the beauty of it all! Remember the exhilaration of overcoming fears. Of trying new things. Of making new friends. Maybe you’ll shed some important light to an issue that new friend hadn’t thought of yet. Maybe you’ll humanize an issue for them, put a fear to rest, and change the world for the better.
The best way to end fear of the unknown is to get to know it.
Trying new things can be scary. It’s comfortable to stay in your house, in your pajamas, turn on another episode of the Walking Dead, and wait for it all to burn the f*&k down.
But the reality is that we don’t really want it all to burn down.
Mr. Rogers says look for the helpers. I love that quote. But here’s a secret: You’re one of the helpers. We’re all the helpers. We’re all the heroes. We all have the opportunity to affect change. Look inside, start with yourself, and start today.
And for f*cks sake, vote! If you missed the primaries, well… no regrets, but do better next time, and VOTE this November. Educate yourself on ALL the politicians on your ballot and VOTE! It is so important and we are so lucky we live in a democracy that allows this. The system might not be ideal for you, but it will only change if you vote in people you believe will help better it.
“This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”