This post is a thank you note to Rachel.

I don’t know her, but we shared the aisles of my local grocery store on Valentines day.   I wasn’t there to shop for chocolate or flowers or even a card.  I was there for groceries.  Laundry soap, batteries, butter.  Honestly,  I was feeling a little jaded.  Lately, people have been making me tired.

What has happened to America?

It’s a question I hear ringing out everywhere.

When did we become a country who can’t listen to someone with a differing opinion?  What happened to our ability to just disagree without hating?  I feel like we have been separated into shirts and skins. We are no longer Americans first and then everything else second. You remember don’t you?  We used to be united in spite of our differences.  Now our differences trump everything.  We have our own news stations and agendas and talking points.  We are as separated as the girls and boys at the spring fling.  You go to your side.  I’ll go to mine.  Don’t cross the line in the middle.

This is how I was feeling Valentine’s Day in the grocery store.  The official day of love and I wasn’t feeling it.  It’s an election year and quite frankly I felt like just giving up.  What is the point? Then, I saw Rachel.

She was’t extraordinary in any way. Short, shiny bob.  White tennis shoes with springy laces and a little flouncy skirt with X and O’s decorating it.  She was pure kid.  It was obvious she was excited.  It was Valentine’s Day.  There was probably sugar in her history.  And her future.  She was intent on hitching a ride on her Mom’s cart. You know how to do it.  We all do.  She was normal.  Just a kid.  In a grocery store.  Doing things we’ve all done. Secure in the knowledge that the grownups are handling things.

Oh Rachel. I wish that were true.

I feel like we are dropping the ball for you and I don’t want to .  I want you to get to grow up happy.  I want you to feel safe at school and the movies and in the grocery store.  I want someone to teach you it’s ok to disagree and that being kind is easier than being mean.  I want you to have what we all had.  I want you to grow up American.

I know we aren’t perfect. I know we make mistakes.  But, I believe in us.  I don’t think everyone on the other side of the aisle is evil.  I don’t think people who disagree with me are bad.  I think there are things to be learned from each other.  I want us to start questioning the people who say we can’t come together.  I want us to question articles and ideas and smear campaigns before we forward them.  I want us to remember our humanity.  Our decency.  I want us to do it for you.

So, thank you Rachel.  I wish I was a better wordsmith to convey what you reminded me of in that store.  Otter-pops and days spent in the sprinkler.  Getting a spanking for littering.  Standing up for our pledge.  Hearing the national anthem as tv programming ended every night.  Being astounded that you might catch a glimpse of our president no matter which party he was from.  Understanding that we are all a part of something bigger and that we all have a responsibility to make sure it continues.

I will keep trying Rachel.  I will listen to people I don’t agree with in hopes that I might learn something.  I will never, ever, ever forward something until I have researched it and made sure it’s true.  I will always choose kindness when I can and I will be the best American I know how to be.  I will do it for you and for every other kid hitching a ride on Mom’s grocery cart.

I am a grown-up and I got it.

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