If once you forfeit the confidence of your fellow-citizens, you can never Recover
their respect and esteem.
Not too long ago, I reviewed John Meachum’s book, The Soul of America. I noted that the soul of which he speaks is a patchwork of all those who inhabit America and as such is a messy idea to explain and make sense of. Our collective soul is a fabric woven from our unique souls. However, what does this mean?
Each of us has a stake in the significance and makeup of our country. I’d dare say the vast majority of us agree that we would like to have the basics to build a satisfying life for ourselves. We would also like to have adequate housing, enough food to eat, good health and the opportunity for our children to make their own way in the world.
A number of us are born with a head start. Support from our parents and relatives, family financial resources and a neighborhood in which we can feel secure give us assurance that we are able to set and meet goals for our lives. They may have arrived as refugees from oppressive states by the skin of their teeth. They may not understand or speak English. They may have valuable skills but not appropriate credentials by which their abilities can be recognized or recorded.
A number of us had a relatively peaceful upbringing and entered maturity confident of our ability to make our own way in the world. Others of us have been marginalized and made to feel inferior in comparison with our fellow citizens. We don’t all emerge from our childhood and adolescence with the same perspective on the world, our country or ourselves. All the things that I have mentioned go into the makeup of our individual souls.
In my view, your spirit consists of one’s past experiences and how they’ve influenced your sense of who you are, your sense of self-worth and outlook on the prospects for a fulfilling life. In addition to thoughts about yourself you also carry feelings that result from these experiences. You might emerge out of your upbringing as happy, optimistic and self confident. With various experiences, you could emerge as unhappy, pessimistic and unsure of yourself.
The spirit of America is a combination of all of our unique souls. With our different backgrounds and experiences, it can be very difficult for us to understand and support each other. That’s the challenge we face. It may be difficult but that does not make it impossible. Just try to bear in mind that not everyone has had the same experiences you’ve got and may view their life very differently from the way you see yours.
• Take time to understand what lies within your soul.
• What do you like about what you find and what would you change?
• When meeting strangers, try and understand what lies within their souls.
• Try to understand your differences.