Feature Column: Joy in Unity

By Icy Frantz

Life gives us so many opportunities to feel, experiences that reach below the surface, reminding us that we are alive. I am sure I am like most everyone else and enjoy those good feelings far more than the bad ones, but either way, I welcome the chance to experience feelings over the alternative. I love those moments that leave me dripping in joy, whether they are sustainable or quick in passing. As a parent, I recall that moment of first holding my newborn child, and experiencing a sense of joy that sustained me until I would look at the face of my clock at 3 a.m. and realize that my newborn was awake, again. As a squash player, I love the joy of hitting the perfect reverse, a joy that is always quick to pass when my opponent hits the perfect nick in return. I experience a certain degree of joy that comes with digging into a plate of truffle fries or watching the sunrise or pushing myself to try something that scares me and succeeding. But, the joy I want to consider is the joy that comes from being part of something greater than our selves. This is a joy that is both fulfilling and sustaining.

I am a bit of a softie when it comes to the spirit I feel when I am actively a part of something greater than myself. I am the first to wear the colors of a school head to toe and proudly cheer with wild abandon when my team scores a touchdown. I love to sit among the congregation in my church, shoulder to shoulder, and hear the collective voices belt out, Onward Christian Soldier. The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday not just because of the fireworks and the chance to wear the stars and stripes that dominate my wardrobe, but because it feels good to celebrate our country, our flag and our freedom. I am proud to be an American.

There is a desire in all of us to feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. It gives us a greater sense of purpose and a place to call home. Being united with others who share a common bond is powerful and comforting.

And because of this, many of us are a part of multiple things, such as schools, churches, teams, towns and political parties, and sometimes these affiliations that unite us also divide us.

It’s election season, and it’s so easy to feel the divide. Lawn signs are multiplying across our town, strangers are knocking on our doors proclaiming the good word, our newspapers are full of op-eds and letters to the editor, urging us to vote for him or vote for her. Words are twisted, and slogans are spun, facts are forgotten and dialogue can be disrespectful. Ruthless actions are taken in the name of strategy, and it’s easy to feel frustrated and torn and pitted against one another in a fight that can be both unfair and malicious.

And, we sometimes forget that competition should be healthy and productive and that, in the end, the players need to shake hands and look into each other’s eyes with honor, once again united.

Last week, I had the incredible pleasure of attending the Breast Cancer Alliance annual lunch, 1,100 strong. It was inspiring, and I was humbled to be part of the crowd and so much love. I left yearning to hold onto the spirit for a little while longer, and it hit me, smack in the middle of election season, breast cancer doesn’t care if I am a Democrat or a Republican or an Independent.

The other night, my husband attended the service of a young man who recently died from an over dose. It was sad. He was young and had his whole life ahead of him. And the loss is tremendous to the young man’s family and his friends. The realization that you can’t go back in time and unravel the addiction that led to his death is devastating. And, once again, addiction doesn’t care to what political party you are a member.

This fall has been one of the most beautiful that I can remember. It’s been incredibly mild and colorful and the streets are full of runners and bikers and gardens still in bloom. I have enjoyed our back porch much longer than in years past, the light is crisp and the mornings cool. And I would guess that no matter what your party affiliation, you too have enjoyed this remarkable weather.

This political division should not rob us of the ability to connect and the potential for relationships. I was talking with an old friend the other day. We were catching up on our children when someone came up to us and said, “You know, you are a Republican, and you are a Democrat.” As if we should be standing on either side of a dodge ball court pegging each other rather than having a nice conversation about the children we raised together, the same children who have their eyes on us and are waiting to see how we will act and how we will treat our neighbors.

During the election season, it is easy to forget that above all else we are united in our humanity. As humans, we experience many of the same feelings, both good and bad. And, because we are human, we make mistakes and there is something very freeing and noble that comes with being able to say, “I am sorry.” “I made a mistake.” “I am accountable.” But too often these words are hard to find in the heat of the moment.

And don’t forget that, although we may have different opinions on how to run our government, sometimes scratch your head in astonishment type of differences, we share many more values that unite us. No man or woman or political party has the power to force us to abandon our spirit, and put down our flag. There is joy in unity and the hope for good things to come.

In case you need something to boost your spirits this week, something that encapsulates the universal feelings that we all experience; joy, loss, love, and forgiveness, binge watch Modern Love on Amazon Prime and listen to the music of Gary Clark and John Carney.