Alter For the Better

“Things alter for the worse spontaneously, if they be not altered for the better designedly.” -Francis Bacon

The older I get, the more I have noticed that inspiration is like magic; it wears many faces, but you have to pay attention to see them. I’ll be the first to admit that it can be difficult to see inspiration when you’re a caregiver for someone with dementia. It’s a lot like caring for a small child full-time inasmuch as the days tend to run together into weeks … and then months … and then years. Eleven of them for me. But these sometimes trying years have given me a special appreciation for those friends who keep me centered, grounded, and engaged in society.

Last year I was fortunate to have a friend who took me to a few concerts at After Hours in Doswell. She is good friends with the promoter, who was kind enough to offer me a summer job in the box office, and I loved it. I get paid to be at concerts, the promoter’s son is my boss, and he is fantastic. What’s not to love? I am more grateful to them than they will ever know.

As if that’s not enough to feel truly blessed (and in keeping with the cliche of the mechanic whose cars never run), one of my best friends, Amy, was kind enough to tote me home after work most nights. She was usually at the concerts, sitting up on the Hospitality deck because that fantastic boss of mine was nice enough to understand how much I appreciate everything she does for me.

We’re always waiting with anticipation for the artist announcements that come prior to, and during concert season. It’s exciting to see who we’ll get to see, and we were over the moon when it was announced that Jamey Johnson was coming in September with Blackberry Smoke.

Amy’s son Thomas is a veteran. He had been waiting for years to see Jamey Johnson, and Amy was thrilled she could make that show a reality for him. So she got the tickets and on that muggy September evening, up to the Hospitality deck they went for the concert pre-game. I got out of the box office at 8:30 and went up to relax and re-hydrate myself with the cranberry juice I like to mix with Tito’s. I also got to meet one of my Facebook friends that evening, so I sat with him and his cousin right behind Amy, Thomas, and their significant others. I’m always excited to meet my “friends” in real life. It’s nice to get to know someone as more than just a picture on a screen.

Amy had a beaming smile all evening and it made my heart happy to see her with her son. Her friend just happened to notice Jon Stewart sitting just to the right of them. It seems like the last place a liberal celebrity would want to be, sitting amongst a crowd full of mostly conservatives. But there he was.

We all had a blast, and I would come to understand that I had been inspired for the first time in a long time.

Amy and I share the ability to talk on the phone for hours, so when she called a couple of days after the concert I settled in for a chat. She explained, as she fought back tears, what it meant to her as a mother to be there with Thomas, watching Johnson sing one of his most riveting songs, In Color.

As I listened to her describe how special it was, I remembered how everyone on the deck, the entire crowd actually … was singing with hands and arms held, on our feet, as we all swayed to that song like leaves on a tree. Lovers danced. We were all strangers, but in those moments we were genuinely connected.

There was no Elephant Clan or Donkey Clan, but 12,000 people joined by music. Mr. Stewart wasn’t a celebrity, or a democrat. He was just a fan … singing.

And what truly inspired me about that experience was knowing that it’s still possible for people to enjoy each other. No judgment, no memes, no air of superiority … in this case, just music, beer, and Tito’s.

I still get misty-eyed whenever Amy recalls that concert. Yes, it might be my altruistic tendencies showing, or I might be waxing nostalgic for a time when people were still kind to each other, but music has that power to create human harmony.

As we get into this election cycle especially, I’m grateful to know it’s still possible. If music can still create human harmony, surely something else can as well. Maybe it would be just enough if people would remember that we can disagree on policy or issues and remain civil. There must be some lesson we can learn before we let the toxic side of politics make us all hate each other.

That lesson has to start with the politicians and party leaders. Run campaigns that prove you have actual ideas. Tell us your vision for improving our lives.

Convince us why you’re right, not why your opponent is wrong. Leave the toxic sound bites alone and tell us why we should support you, not why we should hate your opponent.

It’s certainly worth it, if even so our children can see a world where civility and decency still exist.

It is possible, if we alter for the better.

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