Thursday, May 19, 2011

Three Elephants in the Car Seat

My son has three stuffed animals he lovingly has named Freddo (we make up stories almost every night about his adventures), the Daddy Elephant named Taj Mahal and his Mommy Elephant named Machu Piccu.

Caleb took this picture this morning as we packed the car and prepared for another cross-country road trip, this time to New Orleans.

He laughed and said "Mom you talk about the elephant in the room, well there is a whole bunch waiting in the car, sitting in my seat!"  When I was little my Dad would say "Steph don't think about elephants elephants elephants elephants.  Whatever you do, don't think about elephants elephants elephants"  and I'd always burst out laughing.

I think the big elephant in the United States right now is about the need to make intentional, strategic changes to improve our collective and individual health.  I don't think that's limited to our physical health or just to our country either.  It seems that people talk about the economy, our positioning in the world market, conflict around the globe, natural disasters.  It's easy to get caught up in talk of sports, weather and the latest celebrity/political gossip, gripes...  We talk about EVERYTHING ELSE except the elephant that is not just in the room, not just in the car with us, but is actually taking up our chair!  We have so much potential, but it's well-documented that a human race we're not healthy and we're not getting healthier.  And it seems that we're getting more and more disconnected from the things that make us human.  Our generations is becoming less connected to each other, less connected to the earth, and less connected to God.  Why should we be surprised that we aren't as healthy as we could be?

Yet I'm hopeful that if we take the time to learn/re-learn how to talk to each other, to acknowledge each others' dignity, to slow down long enough to take the time to listen, then we'll  find a better version of ourselves.

Perhaps in listening we'll be able figure out how to help each other get healthier too.  (And I can pretty much guarantee it doesn't start with a pill).  Our next generation is full of potential but it's so much easier to let them babysit themselves with a video game and watching tv.  It's easy to get caught up chasing the American dream rather than taking time to go play with our kids/grandkids, to share deep conversations, to get out in nature, to spend time with people we love and to really listen. 

Technology is a blessing but it also makes the world less personal, more disconnected.  And when we are seeking physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health/wholeness -- and trying to figure out the multi-billion dollar health care crisis --we can miss the point if we're not careful.  We need to be courageous enough to acknowledge the elephant.  When I've taken the time to listen, really listen, I've found out that there are simply a lot of hurting people.  Do we keep providing bandaids rather than treat the real deep injury/illness?  Being well isn't just about not being sick.

Americans have a huge elephant we need to talk about that I didn't even know was in our country until a few years ago.   We need to talk about some uncomfortable things  if we ever hope for healing as a nation.  Programs for physical health are good and needed, but if we neglect the deeper hurt, it's ineffective.

Frankly I'm hoping that this next year will includes what is sometimes jokingly called as a "Come to Jesus" moment when we participate in some soul searching and do some talking that gets us way past the superficial conversations that normally fill our day.

I think it's time we talk about the elephant.  And then take some time to listen.