Stop calling suicide a choice.

A few Sundays ago, we spoke openly about suicide and overdose at church. Our community lost someone to each in that week. I’m thankful we spoke openly about the pain instead of avoiding the spiritual practice of lament, but one word was voiced twice, once by our campus pastor and once by our senior pastor.

Choice.

I think we choose (pun intended) this word because it makes us feel comfortable. We don’t like to admit that mental illness is real and can be fatal. If someone can succumb to depression like someone succumbs to leukemia, then life feels scary. Anyone can get sick like that, we realize, and that reality is just a little too real for us. And we’re afraid if we call suicide the fatal outcome of depression for some, then we might give permission to those on the brink of life and death to choose the latter.

So we minimize the fear by calling it the choice of the deceased.

But I don’t think that’s fair or accurate. I know when I attempted suicide a couple decades ago, I didn’t see choices. I just saw darkness. I just saw pain. I just wanted to stop feeling so much. I wanted a choice. Genuinely, I did. But the only option I could see was the blade against my skin. Suicide isn’t chosen; it’s the result of when a person’s pain exceeds the resources available for coping with pain.

Obviously, I’m still here. I didn’t die that day. I consider that God’s grace, but I don’t understand it because one of the best friends I’ve ever had did die from depression almost a year and a half ago. How can I call my living grace when she died after having survived previous suicidal episodes?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that Melinda and I were texting earlier that week about the dark place in which she had found herself. We had talked about it the week before over coffee and donuts. Her doctors knew. Her husband knew. Her sons knew. Her mom and sister knew. We were all standing with her, holding her up, cheering for her. She was fighting and seeking help and taking meds and making all the choices you make if you want to live.

Until she didn’t see choices anymore.

Three Sundays ago was the first time I let myself cry at our new church. I hate crying in public. I think it’s fine if someone else does it, but it feels like weakness when I do. (Yes, I’m working on being kinder to myself.) But after talking about the two young men who were no longer living, we sang the hymn It Is Well. We sang that song at Melinda’s funeral too.

Well, some people sang it then. As for me, I leaned over to Lee and whispered, “I refuse to sing this. It. Is. Not. Fucking. Well. With. My. Soul.”

(I don’t think I’ve ever cussed on the blog, but here we are. Someday I’ll write a post about why I think most of the passages in scripture about profane language are more concerned with the sort of vile remarks Trump makes than with certain four letter words we’ve deemed unspeakable. For now, I’ll simply say that in some moments – like this one and like when I replied with the same f word to my friend Lisa’s text a few months later that her four year old son had died – polite language fails us. Or it does me, at least. I'm a work in progress, after all)

I don’t think I chose suicide the day I attempted it. I don’t think Melinda chose it the days she tried or the day she died. I don’t think the two young men in our church community chose overdose or suicide.

I do think, though, that we all make choices every day that move us toward life or death. When Jesus says that he came that we might live life abundantly, I don’t think the takeaway is that life will always feel good. I do think, though, that we can choose life and keep choosing it. We can show up, even when it’s hard. We can defy death and despair by doing the next loving thing. We can look for lovelies even on dreary days. We can sit in the ashes of life and still find beauty. We can hold out support for others when their pain is exceeding their resources, and we can let others extend it to us when we’re in that imbalanced place. We can believe we are enough - even when we don't feel that way - because we were created by One who is more than enough. We can choose joy and bravery and light, and we can encourage others to join us in that choice.

And we can do so without painting those who succumb to depression as ones who rejected joy or weren’t brave or chose the shadows. That’s not the truth. None of us – even those who die from mental illness – are defined by what we’ve done in our darkest moments.

Suicide is a lot of things: A tragedy. A million papercuts on the hearts of those still living. A crushing end to the battle against depression. An anguish-driven explosion, sending shrapnel in more directions than anyone could predict beforehand. A painful reminder that this sin-soaked world isn’t right or just or perfect and that happy endings aren’t promised.  

But suicide is not a choice. And I think we need to stop saying it is. 

Rape isn’t about consent, and rape isn’t sex

I’m tired of news stories about rape. I am. But I hope we keep reporting on these assaults whenever they happen.

As we do, though, can we stop talking about how we need to teach our boys about consent? Of course, we do. We need to teach both boys and girls those lessons. Discussions of consent are healthy in sex education and self-respect. But rape isn't about consent.

And can we stop – as a local news station did yesterday – using headlines about “sex with children” to describe child rape? Because rape isn't about sex.

 

Rape isn’t simply sex minus consent. It isn’t.

The first time I was raped, I was confused. I couldn’t figure out what was happening. I just knew that I didn’t want what was happening.

Then I realized I knew the word for this: rape. By the time that clicked, it was over. I thought, “That was rape. That was sex. Things like this don’t happen to nice girls.”

I was right about one thing: it was rape.

I was wrong about others: Rape happens to nice girls all the time. And rape is not sex.

Sex isn’t just the logistical act of one person entering another’s body. Sex involves two parties. When a child is assaulted, we don’t say she had sex. No, we recognize that a child can’t be a willing party to that. By legal definition, consent isn’t possible from a minor or from someone with diminished mental functioning, due to disability, injury, or the influence of alcohol or drugs.

There is no such thing as non-consensual sex. Let me say that again. There is no. such. thing. as non-consensual sex. That, my friends, is rape. It is not sex.

The first time I had sex was on my honeymoon, the first time I chose and consented to that activity. No, Lee wasn’t the first man to enter my body. But before him, I hadn’t experienced sex; I had been raped.

Sex is about giving yourself to someone else. Rape is about taking. Sex is about intimacy. Rape is about violence. Sex is about two people sharing their bodies. Rape is about one person violating another.

We should teach children and youth about consent, but that’s just part of teaching them about their bodies. We tell them that no one gets to touch you without your permission. We say that to show respect to others, we don’t act entitled to anyone else’s body. If someone says you have to hug them, you can say no, even if it’s grandma. You control your body. If someone asks you to stop wrestling – even if you were both just roughhousing moments before – you stop. When the doctor checks out my kids’ privates during their annual physicals, she says each time, “Can I look under this sheet to take a look?” and waits for an answer, teaching this lesson in yet another way. We don’t access anyone else’s body without consent, and no one else gets to access ours without consent.

Consent is about respect. Consent is an important lesson. Consent matters.

But consent is separate from rape. Rape, by definition, involves a lack of consent. Rape rarely involves confusion about consent. The rapist either doesn’t care enough to confirm consent, or – more often – the rapist is exercising control over the other person’s body with the lack of consent being the whole point of the act.

For example, after the Stanford rape case, many spoke out about consent. I found that confusing. I don’t believe for a moment that this rapist thought that what he did in darkness behind a dumpster involved a willing party. The testimony of her rescuers on bicycles made that clear. In so many other cases, we talk about consent as if the sexual offender was simply confused. But rape isn’t a misunderstanding. It’s a crime.

When we turn discussions of rape into teachable moments about consent, we miss the point. Rape isn’t about consent. Rape isn’t a simple misunderstanding. Rape isn’t sex.

I haven’t always understood this. For a long time, I didn’t talk about my rapes. I first started processing them with others when I was engaged. Two women were among the first I told; I’ll call them A and B. A said, “I hate what he did to you. He took something special that was supposed to be sacred between you and Lee.” I told B about what A said, and she said no with firm tone to her voice. “No, Shannon. No. Don’t believe that. I hate what he did to you too, but what he did was rape. Loving sex between husband and wife is special and sacred and, well, awesome.” We were on the phone, but I could hear the blush in her voice. Sex wasn’t something she talked about often. I didn’t say anything, surprised by her pushback and candidness. B continued, “What he did wasn’t sex, Shannon. It was rape. What you’ll have with Lee can be different.”

And she was right, though it took a lot of therapy and healing for that to be possible. What happened on my honeymoon was so different than what happened so many years before that. Rape isn’t sex.

Stealing isn’t simply borrowing something without consent. No, it’s stealing. Murder isn’t simply taking a life without consent. No, it’s murder. Assault isn’t simply hurting someone without consent. No, it’s assault. When someone vandalizes someone else’s property, we don’t say they were breaking things or spray painting without consent. No, we call it vandalism. Even though each of these crimes involves lack of consent from the victim, we understand that consent isn’t the primary problem. The crime is.

Likewise, rape isn’t simply sex without consent. No, it’s rape.

I’m still tired of news stories about rape. But I’m hopeful that as we keep shining a light on the problem, we’ll learn to use more care with our words. Let’s frame rape as the problem here, not consent. And let’s call rape rape instead of wrongly framing it as sex.  

a summer in front of the camera

This will go down as the summer of cameras.

It all started a year or so ago. First, my girls wrote an impassioned letter asking for more diversity in Barbie dolls. That led to an invitation to be part of an American Girl (also owned by Mattel) segment on Good Morning America. Then, as we prepared to leave for NYC, our local news did a piece on them. 

As we hung out in the green room, our family was conspicuous. (Okay, let’s be honest. Everywhere we go, our family is conspicuous.) The girls had their moment, we had a wonderful trip to New York City, and then we returned home. 

More than seven months have passed, but when one of the Good Morning America producers needed a family to feature for a Deals & Steals product feature, they remembered us. We were in a vet hospital waiting room when they called. Who is calling from New York?, I wondered.

“Hi, Shannon! This is Julia from Good Morning America.”

Um, wait. What?

She asked if we’d be part of an upcoming piece. I didn’t know it would involve a trunk full of goodies. I said yes. We figured out details the night before with the ABC11 team. That morning, I had one of my heroes Robin Roberts in my ear, welcoming the Dingle family to their segment and later thanking our local affiliate “for bringing the Dingles to us.”

Swoon.

Just a few weeks prior, we had been featured by a different ABC11 team, Troubleshooter Diane Wilson. She shared the story of our struggle to get a lift for Zoe’s motorized wheelchair. Like the first GMA segment, this began as a blog post. Someone sent it to Diane, and she contacted us, and the segment aired while we were at the beach. A precious woman named Angel saw it and called her dad, who owns Medical Supply Superstore in Durham. One thing led to another, and they were giving us a lift for the van at no charge. Diane and her team ran the story tonight at 5:50pm, and the video will be up with the written story here.

(Side note: Sorry to all the other networks, but ABC11 has won my allegiance. They are dear to us now. NBC, you have me right now with your Olympics coverage, but I’m just using you. I’ll be back with my first love, ABC11, for the news as soon as you leave Rio.)

And today we had more filming at our house, as you see in all the pictures throughout this post. This time we spent most of the morning and early afternoon shooting footage for a short piece about a non-profit we love. The story of Hope Reins and their work is going to be told through the lens of our family, in particular one of our children’s stories.

Friday we head out to Hope Reins to do more filming on site there. Our kids are excited, and I expect it’ll be a delightful day. And then? No more cameras in our future, other than me behind my camera taking back to school pictures soon.

(Not. Soon. Enough. I love my people dearly. But I love them better when someone else loves them for part of the day and when we all have our predictable routine back.)

 A few days ago, one of my kids asked when the “popcorn-rotsy” (paparazzi) would start following us. You know, since we’re getting so famous now. “Internet famous,” one corrected. “Um, that’s the biggest kind of famous nowadays,” the other replied.

Bless it all.

All this filming has me thinking about all our stories, both those on main stages and those behind the scenes. We’ve spent more time in front of cameras this summer than ever before. More than one comment has been made about a reality show for us. We were actually contacted once to be on one; we said no thanks. I’m an extrovert, and I’m thankful for all the good that’s come from being in the camera’s eye, but I’m also feeling a little overexposed at this point.

We all have a public version of ourselves and a private one. Authenticity is having those match as closely as possible. I’m not saying we go out in public in our pajamas, but our hearts and integrity are the same in our homes as in our schools, as in our churches, as in our neighborhoods, as in how we treat our best friend, as in how we treat the waiter, as in how we treat the presidential candidate we like the least, and so on. When we’re in front of cameras, I think there’s a temptation to portray the ideal self we want to be instead of the real self we are… and when we do that often enough, that real self gets lost.

This past year has involved a lot of rediscovery of my real self. Not too long after I started leading the special needs ministry at our old church, a well-meaning mentor forged connections for me to speak at national children’s ministry events. In hindsight, I don’t think I was ready. I was 29 with young children, trying hard to live up to what this pastor saw in me. I exhausted myself, only realizing later that I didn’t have to prove anything. He introduced me to those people and pitched me as a speaker because he already believed in me.

The problem? I didn’t believe in me.

I’ve spoken at more than 20 conferences all over the country, from Washington to Pennsylvania and California to Florida and Texas to Illinois and more. And still, I ended up in my therapist’s office for the first time last fall because that external affirmation wasn’t enough. All the invitations and likes and positive feedback were nice, sure. But instead of taking them as evidence that I had proven myself, I saw each as a fluke. “Someday,” I’d think, “they’ll all realize I’m a nobody who doesn’t belong here among real speakers and bloggers and writers.” I almost didn’t launch this new website, even after I had finished the design, because I didn’t think I was worthy of it.

You see, it doesn’t matter how many news stories or cameras are in your life if you’re still hustling like you have something to prove. It doesn’t matter if a blog post goes viral if you are certain you’re a one-hit wonder. It won’t matter if you’re featured by Christianity Today, Slate, and Daily Kos in the same summer if you consider all the positive comments to be off-base but all the negative ones on-target.  

When people ask why I haven’t written a book yet, I don’t give the real answer. I say something a little different each time, and the reasons aren’t lies. But they aren’t the reason, the primary one. I’ve never admitted it publicly: 

I haven’t written a book yet because I’m not sure my voice matters. I’m not sure I really have something meaningful to say. I might have the word tattooed on my wrist, but I’m still not sure I’m really enough.

The cameras have been lovely, truly. The conferences have too. But? I’m looking forward to some time without travel or news crews, some moments once school starts when even my children’s eyes aren’t on me. I’m looking forward to quiet in my home when it’s just me and my dog and my Bible. I’m wanting to get to know the real me again and to let God reshape me into someone so confident in him that I don’t need to prove myself to others.

And? I'm hoping to dust off my book proposal drafts to get serious about one or more of them. It's time.

I’ve enjoyed the summer in front of cameras. I have. But at the same time I’m grateful for the coming days out of the limelight. For everything, there is a season, after all.  

the three Simones in my news feed this morning

One Simone we’ve been talking about for weeks. One Simone just caught our national attention last night. And one Simone might be not be on your radar yet.

All three are amazing black women. All three have powerful stories. All three warrant our attention.

Let’s start with Simone Biles. She is a joy to watch, and I’m glad she’s become a household name, with her team gold and all-around medal just the start to the medals I expect she’ll bring home.

She’s creating amazing conversations too. Discussions of her adoption, including some uneducated remarks, have forced our language about adoptees and family into the news. As for her legacy, I love this quote from her: "I'm not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I'm the first Simone Biles." 

Source: CNN

Source: CNN

But Simone Biles isn’t the only American Simone making a splash (pun intended) at the Olympics this year. By now, I expect you’ve seen the footage of Simone Manuel winning gold in the 100 freestyle in Rio. If you haven’t, please find it and watch. On the NBC broadcast, the commentators referred to her as the “other American” swimmer, as they focused back on the favorites for the race. It isn’t until the final 25 meters that they took note of Simone. And then? The look on her face when she realizes she’s won gives me goosebumps.  

Source: USA Today

Source: USA Today

Simone’s blackness isn’t just a side note here. It isn’t like saying the first blue-haired swimmer won gold as part of a relay a few nights ago. (Bless your heart, Ryan.) Race matters here. In 1964, shown in the picture below, a white motel owner poured acid in his pool in an effort to scare black swimmers out of it. Before that, black actors Dorothy Dandridge and Sammy Davis Jr., in separate incidents in the 1950s, found hotel pools drained, simply because they had used them, with Dandridge merely sticking her toe in the water according to some stories. After Brown v. the Board of Education ruled that segregation in schools are unconstitutional, a federal judge decided that pools could stay separate because they "were more sensitive than schools."  

Given that context, I found Simone Manuel’s words to be powerful.

This medal is not just for me. It is for some of the African-Americans who have come before me, like Maritza, Cullen. This medal is for the people who come behind me and get into the sport and hopefully find love and drive to get to this point... Coming into this race tonight I tried to take the weight of the black community off my shoulders, which is something I carry with me...

I’m super-glad I can be an inspiration to others and hopefully diversify the sport, but at the same time I’d like there to be a day when there will be more of us and it’s not ‘Simone – the black swimmer’. The title ‘black swimmer’ makes it seem like I’m not supposed to be able to win a gold medal or break records. That’s not true. I work just as hard as everybody else and I love the sport.

That brings me to the third Simone in my newsfeed this morning, Simone Butler-Thomas. She lives here in Raleigh. Her son, Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, died this past weekend at the hands of a man who her family’s lawyer has called “Zimmerman 2.0.” You might have missed it because, sadly, an innocent black man dying has become an all too frequent story.

Source: ABC News

Source: ABC News

In Thomas's death, an officer didn’t pull the trigger. Thomas was walking home from a party. A neighbor shot from his garage, telling a 911 operator “We're going to secure our neighborhood. If I were you I would send PD.” Thomas died at the scene. Unlike many incidents in recent news, though, Thomas’s killer is in jail right now, largely I suspect because he was shot by a civilian rather than an officer.

(Let’s all remember that the movement against police brutality isn’t simply about the deaths of black people at the hands of officers but rather the lack of justice in the aftermath. When officers are killed, the act is wrong too - of course - but their killers will be charged with their crimes, found guilty, and sentenced to punishment, something which is usually not the case for black men and women when their lives are taken in incidents of police aggression. And just as I'm not criticizing all parents when I call for action against abusive ones or blasting all teachers when I demand accountability for bad ones, I - as a parent and a former teacher and the daughter of a retired police officer - am not attacking all police officers when I point out the violence by some.)

After her victory, Simone Manuel took a moment to address these hard realities.

It means a lot, especially with what is going on in the world today, some of the issues of police brutality. This win hopefully brings hope and change to some of the issues that are going on. My color just comes with the territory.

She wasn’t “playing the race card” – a phrase which is regularly used in attempts to silence minority voices – but rather pointing out a reality that white America is finally seeing with the spread of social media and camera phones. Police more readily use force on black Americans [1] - at a rate of 3.5 times more than whites and 2.5 more than the general population according to one study[2] and at a rate of more than twice as likely as whites according to the DOJ [3]. A detailed study from UC-Davis last year showed, from 2011-2014, that unarmed black Americans were 3.49 times more likely to be shot by police than unarmed white Americans [4].

Well, maybe black people are being more violent to warrant such a response, some suggest. But, no. A Washington Post data analysis found that "when factoring in threat level, black Americans who are fatally shot by police are, in fact, less likely to be posing an imminent lethal threat to officers at the moment they are killed than white Americans fatally shot by police." [5]. Again and again, investigations into specific areas - like Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago, Greensboro, and San Francisco - uncover blatant racism and gross bias in policing practices. (Here's a post that examines some of these studies as well as others.)

Simply put, according to this research, my black son is more likely than my white son to be stopped, searched, met with force, arrested, charged, convicted, and sentenced harshly in the same circumstances. This reality isn't okay. 

IMG_2861.JPG

Don't get me wrong: As I see our nation celebrate Simone Biles and Simon Manuel, I cheer too. Their athletic feats and historic victories are inspiring. I’m amazed, too, by their poise and care in using their voices for others. Americans of all races and religions and backgrounds are rooting for these two Simones.

As I see Simone Butler-Thomas weep, though, I don’t see the same diversity in those who are mourning with her. When she says, “I'm going to bury my child. He was a good kid and I don’t have him no more and there’s nothing I can do,” are we hearing her? When she cries "I just want justice for my son," are we joining her in that? I’m not hearing my white friends talk about this Simone and her grief for her dead son. Why are we comfortable empathizing with Simone Biles and Simone Manuel but not Simone Butler-Thomas?  

If we want to celebrate blackness in sports but turn our backs to the disparities blacks face in ordinary life, then we’re not saying they matter. We aren't. Our humanity isn’t based in our contributions, but when we wear their jerseys and celebrate their accomplishments but refuse to share in their grief, we’re saying we value their performance but not their personhood. Our language betrays us, as we claim our black brothers and sisters in victories – “we won!” as if I helped by holding my breath in suspense as I watched from my couch – but separate ourselves in sorrow – “they need to wait until all the facts are available” or, again, "they are playing the race card."

Simone Biles matters. Simone Manuel matters. They do.

But Simone Butler-Thomas matters too, and so does her son Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas.

Black lives matter. They do.

And I’ll keep saying it until they do to all of us, as much when they’re walking home from a neighborhood party as when they’re representing our country on an Olympic podium. 

What concerns me the most this election cycle? You might be surprised by the answer.

Hi, I’m a person.

Despite what some commenters think, I’m not a paid Democrat operative. Despite their theories, my piece wasn’t ghostwritten by Hillary’s team. Despite how some have argued and flooded me with links as if I didn’t research my post, I watched and read extensively from varied sources in the hours it took to draft what I shared last weekend.

One commenter wrote, "if this is indeed a real person, she either is a flaming pro-abort or is too busy with children to do much more than arrange sound bites from the liberal, dishonest media." Sigh.

I’m a person who spent a week on vacation and wrote a research paper on politics and pro-life ideology for fun. So, yes, I'm a nerd, but I'm still a person. 

I know we don’t all agree. I never asked or demanded anyone else to share my views. I was careful to express respect and care for those who hold other positions, even as I honestly expressed that I don’t understand how Christians can support Trump. (This post, also lengthy, does an exceptional job of expanding upon that. I don’t agree with a couple of his points, but I think the biblical arguments are compelling.) But I never attacked anyone for holding a different conviction than I do.

Meanwhile, my comment sections… mercy.

I usually police them. I didn’t this time. Part of it was because I couldn’t keep up with each one. But part of it is that I think we all need to be heard. So I was more lenient than usual.

I think I erred on the side of grace, maybe too much so. I allowed people to question my integrity and faith and intellect without shutting that down. When I felt like someone was harsh to a close friend in the comments, though, I jumped in to protect her and stop it immediately. When it came to me, I wasn’t as protective.

I’m going to need to spend a while processing what that means.

I know this, though: I’m learning to value myself as much as I value others. I’m definitely not there yet. My wrist might be branded with the word enough, but my heart doesn’t always believe it. As a result, I stood by, tolerating more heartless and unkind comments directed at me than I should have allowed.

I’ve always tried to make others comfortable, sometimes with severe consequences to my health or safety. Earlier this year, I stopped having any contact with someone who has persistently and at times violently abused me throughout my life. Afterward, my therapist said, “You’ve always limited your children’s contact with him. It seems like you’re starting to value your own safety and protection as much as you value theirs.”

Boom.

Just as I deserved better than my abuse, we all deserve better than current political rhetoric offers. We are all better than the dehumanizing shouts and snarky digs that have become common at rallies and on the internet. We would correct our children if they ever spoke with such disregard for another person as we do about the candidates we dislike. (Ouch.)

If America needs to be made great, I can guarantee the answer isn’t the candidate who keeps promising that. The answer isn’t the other candidate either, though. The answer is a return to common decency and civil debate. The answer is re-learning how to disagree without being disagreeable. The answer is to model for our children how we would want them to act toward someone with whom they don’t see eye to eye. The answer is loving ourselves and then loving our neighbors as ourselves. The answer is to love our God and each other more than we love our political parties or patriotism.

I don’t know how to bring about this change on a large scale, but I know what I can do for myself. I am striving to see every human being – even [insert the name of the candidate whose positions you find abhorrent] – as a precious life created in the image of God. My theology says that is truth. This goes for every person, every commenter, who disagrees with me too. Reducing anyone to a caricature or stereotype and dismissing different views as indoctrination isn’t treating each other with dignity or respect. If I refuse to support a candidate for denigrating those he doesn’t like but then do the same to him, I have lost any moral high ground I claim. 

My Bible also says I’m to show honor and offer prayers to governing authorities. I don't think any of us has done that well, honestly. I watched as some criticized the humanity – and not just the policies – of George W. Bush while his supporters cried foul, and then I watched as those crying foul did the same exact thing to Barack Obama while those who had been cruel before chastised the people now occupying their still warm spots in the cheap seats. Pot, meet kettle. Both sides stand guilty here.

We can’t spend an entire election cycle dehumanizing the other side and then, if our candidate loses, treat the new leader as a person worthy of respect. Our brains and emotions don’t work that way. If we are called to show deference to those in authority, then we have to start when they are running for office. We can’t throw around disparaging words like Killary or Drumpf and then respect to President Clinton or President Trump.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying you have to respect the words or actions or platforms of each candidate. I'm also not saying I've changed my mind about my last post. (I haven't.) But I am saying, Christians, we must aim to respect the personhood of each one, as an act of worship glorifying to the Creator we all share in common. Even if you don’t share my faith, I’d encourage you to exercise the same principle, as a demonstration that our shared humanity is more valuable than our differences.

I’ve heard some friends say they’ve never been so dismayed for our country as they are by Hillary. I’ve heard others say the same about Trump. As for me, it's not either candidate who worries me. It's not Supreme Court appointments or emails or racism or marriage protections or misgyny or [fill in the blank]. No, none of those bother me the most.

I’ve never been so concerned for our nation and my children as I have by the lack of care we show each other over political differences.

This week I learned that some of my friendships were conditional. Some who I’ve laughed with and prayed with and cried with and worshiped with turned from me because I said I was voting for Hillary as an expression of my pro-life beliefs. Hurtful comments from strangers didn’t pain me, but slander and abandonment and unfriending from those who I love and who I thought loved me… that stung.

I’m a person.

So are you.

So is Hillary. So is Trump. So is each of the third party candidates.

So are Republicans. So are Democrats. So are independents.

So are those who vote for either major candidate. So are those who vote third party. So are those who don’t vote.

So are those who agree with you. So are those who don’t.

I’m not as concerned about if you’re Team Hillary 2016 – like me – or Team Trump 2016 as I am that we’re all Team Humanity 2016. Let’s disagree with policies and politics and positions, not with people. And if I resolve to do this and you do and so on, then I think we can change our political climate for the better.

We can do this. I’m sure of it. Who's with me?