In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “When we know better, we do better.” (Maya Angelou)
I don’t think it is just cynicism when I say that maybe the quote should have been – When we know better, We OUGHT to do better. There are just so many examples in everyday life where we do know better, but don’t do better.
The whole Black Lives Matter movement is a demonstration of that thought. We know that prejudices and brutality exist within police departments across the country, yet we have not been able to correct that and do better. Stories about local hate crimes against families of color or against members of the LBGTQ community are also examples. We know better, but we don’t do better. Even stories about the impact of climate change are examples of a problem that is well documented and that we know is causing harm, yet too many of us continue practices that further pollute our air and promote those changes. We know better and we ought to do better.
What are we to do? How can we affect change and do better? I think the first step in making any change is to stop and consider what you are about to do. Think about it before you act. Do not let yourself succumb to a knee-jerk reaction that is driven by fear, preconceived notions or misinformation. Start your day with a prayer for the will and patience to stop and think before you act. You know better; now do netter.
Systemic racism in our society is nurtured and reinforced by people who know better but who don’t do better. Predispositions like racism and homophobia cannot stand the light of reason because they have no reasonable foundation upon which to be based. Rumors, conspiracy theories and outright lies are not the things upon which we should; base decisions; yet they are all that is underlying those examples. All of those “reasons” are based upon fear. We know better and we ought to do better.
Much of the fear that drives these issues in our society is fear that somehow something will be taken from us and given to others. People rail against providing healthcare to others through programs like Medicaid or care for refugees seeking asylum in America because they believe that it is taking something away from them. Their attitude is, “I got mine, you get your own!” Yet our country has been successful largely because we welcomed immigrants who later contributed to the economic growth that we all benefit from today. Was there an initial cost to welcome those new members of our society? Yes, there always was and there always will be a “startup cost” to getting any immigrant of to a new life in America; however, history has shown us that those costs are repaid many times over by the contributions that most of these new members later make to our society. We know better and we ought to do a better job of welcoming immigrants to America, not build walls to keep them out.
Of late, our challenge has concerned how to act within the context of a worldwide pandemic. Our statistics as a country show that while we know better, we have not done better. It certainly isn’t that we haven’t been given enough information or warnings about what needs to be done to slow down the spread of this virus. It’s really that so many have ignored the warnings and advice and chosen instead to selfishly (or foolhardily) keep spreading the disease to others. They knew better and decided not to do better. Wear a mask in public – you know better, now do better.
So, our challenge is to take the “ought to” out of my revision of the Angelou‘s quote and just do better. You know that we know better.
Today, let’s all just do better.
I’ll always remember the chemistry teacher who took me aside and said, “You can do better that this, Jack.”