Recently I had a chance to be part of a small seminar with Van Jones, TV host, author, and much more. A longtime activist with deep roots in the conservative South, Van has made it his mission to build bridges, challenging voters and viewers to stand in one another’s shoes and disagree constructively. The key question was: how do we move forward as a nation in such divisive times? How to trust that we can all be better? While progressive in his views, Van works effectively with folks on all sides, including with our President. He works for “the addicted, convicted, and afflicted”. (addiction, prison reform, poverty). His work is effective because it’s based on trust in our shared humanity and God’s love. Whether you relate to God, Goddess, Buddhanature, the infinite intelligence of the universe, the “inner trust fund”, to any or all of the above, being grounded in trust is a powerful antidote to anxiety in these uncertain times.
Van described taking a group of African-American community leaders from South Central Los Angeles with hard-won expertise in the addiction field to a meeting in West Virginia with white community leaders struggling with the opioid epidemic there. In the diner where they met, on one side of the table sat the left-leaning leaders from the West Coast, on the other side were 20 West Virginia red MAGA hat-wearing leaders, bikers and sheriffs. Given the potentially volatile meeting, Van asked each participant to bring a photo of a loved one they lost to addiction. As people shared their photos, a profound connection happened across the political chasm. Remarkably, they were soon exchanging hugs and tears, ready to work together as sisters and brothers. Van happens to be a creative genius at finding ways to help people trust themselves and each other, too. Van radiates inspiration and confidence in the expertise that the Black community has to offer and how problems can be solved with mutual collaboration.
Like you, I carry images of my life’s struggles – photographs indelibly etched in my consciousness. Just like you, I also carry memories of good times when I was able to triumph over adversity. Let’s come together and share our life ‘photos’ – it’s so important to connect with community during these unsteady times. Van Jones is able to forge relationships with challenging and challenged groups because he trusts compassion and love. He overcame depression to find faith in his inner trust fund; this is possible for you and me, too!