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Can we talk about Us?

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

— I Corinthians 13:11

Sounds wise, right? Maybe not. Maybe thinking like children could help us through these hard times, better times and (Supreme Being forbid) harder times.

When I was a child I believed, and argued, that if I was out playing in the wind that a bath was unnecessary. My childish logic figured that since the wind made me feel clean and refreshed, it must be so. Never won those arguments, but I still love that clean, windswept feeling.

One of my favorite childhood magical thoughts, which stayed stuck in my inner child, began post World War II and Korean War childhood. Both of my parents worked for the Army at Fort Benning, Georgia, and because of living close to a huge Army base in the early 50s, we were awash in Army surplus. Tents for 20, circus tent-sized parachutes, jungle hammocks, kerosene lamps, stainless sterno hand warmers, canteens, ammo boxes, foot lockers you can imagine our family camping trips, more like a mobilization of the troops.

And everything from the Army Surplus Store had one thing in common, identical black letter stencils: U.S.

What’s the first thing you saw? My 5-year old brain saw “Us.” I probably assumed our Cold War enemies had the two-letter Cyrillic word for “them” stenciled on their goods. By the time I figured out U.S. meant United States property, I had become idyllic enough to think that it should mean Us because that seemed like what our form of government was; the United States of Us. I thought democracy meant the government is like a co-op where everybody chips in what they can. It seemed clear to me that the outcome of voting could only be what is best for the greater good. So childish.

Childish, naive and unrealistic, but think about it: Wouldn’t it be great if everyone felt like we are all in this together, that within our country there was no Us or Them? Wouldn’t it be great if no one felt like they would lose if someone else gained? What if everyone accepted without judgment how other people look and behave without feeling like their way of life is threatened? How cool would it be if we could laugh at our differences because, as Muhammad Ali once said, “different strokes for different folks.”

I don’t pretend to know what is best for everyone, but it’s obvious there are too many people suffering physically, mentally and emotionally. Do my inner child a favor; take a moment and think about Us.

Joi Riley lives in Talent.

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