Good afternoon, Connor.
Did you know there are only two kinds of people in the world? Yeah, I know it looks like there are millions, but I think all those millions can be divided into two groups: the ones who know what they want for dinner — and the ones who don’t.
I call the ones who don’t “people of possibilities,” although I likely do so with an eye-roll because what I’d rather call them is “people who dither.” I make decisions quickly and I am frustrated when I have to wait around for others.
OK, so maybe it’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you can tell who is which by asking one question: What do you want for dinner? Those who decide can tell you. Those who dither, can’t.
You’re three and you are not one of those who dither. Your MamaDada sent us this text this week with a picture of your breakfast pasta:
Lee created this…he said “what does everyone want for breakfast.” Connor said “pasta.” Lee tried to talk him out of it and you can see how that turned out. He’s a happy boy after Lee conceded and made the pasta sauce. Originally Lee tried to just give him buttered noodles. Connor knows what he wants. Like last night as we were picking out a new shower curtain for his room. I gave him three options…he said “Momma, quit showing me stuff, I already picked.” And with that he was done.
“Quit showing me stuff. I already picked.” OMG, Connor, you are so going to make your parents (and a huge chunk of your extended family) nuts. You are the mirror of my mind. And, I am going to love-laugh — until your decision and my decision roar together in some grandson-grandmother clash of wills.
Here’s the catch. Brains that make quick decisions often make wrong decisions. Why? Because those brains, like yours and mine, can fail to consider other options. We’ll dismiss the exploration of alternatives as just too much trouble. We want to make a decision — sometimes any decision — and move on. We’re compelled to decide; it’s how our brains work. We sit in brainstorming conversations and grumble about wasted time. Just pick the paint color for crying out loud.
The people of possibilities have just the opposite challenge. They’re open to so many possibilities that their decision-making can be paralyzed. We can explore that some other day.
Today, I’m wrestling with our country’s fascination with instant decisions; one-sentence solutions to complex challenges. A handful of examples:
- Build a wall. Keep out bad people
- No more immigration. Keep out the Muslims and anyone else not Western European
- Let the smart, rich folks decide. The best will trickle down
- Tax the rich; give to the poor. Because, of course, individual or corporate wealth is automatically bad
- Buy a gun and carry it to the grocery story. Be safe from boogeypeople
- Zero tolerance. Fill up prisons with anything that scares us
- Safe zones. So we don’t have to confront ideas different from our own
- Black lives matters. Cops lives matter. All lives matter. And, we’re off to blame anyone who doesn’t fit
- And, the mother of all whistle words. “Make America great again.”
Connor, when a decision-making brain runs amok, it morphs into a very scary thing, and right now, we have run-amok decision-making brains leading this country. It’s not a right or left, liberal or conservative thing. Heck, it’s not even a right or wrong thing.
It’s a big, hairy, scary thing because those brains are tuned into a scared-out-of-its wits collective of Americans, paralyzed by too many possibilities, too many problems, too many frustrations and, well, just too many and too much of everything. And, when the country’s collective brain shuts down out of sheer exhaustion, the sound-bite deciders swoop in with simplistic solutions and the collective brain gives a sigh of relief.
That’s where we are here in the summer of 2016. As a country, we are dismayed at what we have become. We offer up our “thoughts and prayers” for whatever latest atrocity fills our news feeds, knowing full well we don’t mean it and certainly aren’t going to do the work or make the decisions thoughts and prayers require.
The headlines exhaust us. We’re done. Let someone else fix it. I’m going to the beach. Do that and I guarantee that my silence and my deliberate disengagement ensures the demagogues win.
Do this instead:
- Quiet your brain
- Take a break from the relentless news cycles
- Choose three things you can do today to make someone’s life better. Like buying diapers for the local shelter, or sending an email or text to a friend, or smiling at the clerk and saying thank you. Take a deep breath before swearing at the driver who just cut you off
- Repeat these words: Show me my path. Teach me along the way. Grant me peace. Sustain my hope
- And, then take up the mantle again.
This is from a text from your MamaDada. They’re smart people.
Today I am sad for the future that Connor will have to live in. … Lee and I have decided to take a break from FB and TV. Especially with TV as I don’t want that on in my house with the energy that can seep into my sweet boy who knows no hate, no color, no political affiliation, no sexual preference nothing…it is our job to teach him love and acceptance. I just hope that is enough.
Love you, Connor Cunningham. Don’t forget your prayers.
“Dear Connor” will become a collection of occasional blog posts written for Connor Cunningham by his grandmother, Linda Grist Cunningham. I began writing these as my construct for making sense of the unraveling American community. Connor may never read them, nor might others; but they’ll help me distill solutions from the cacophony that passes for discourse in the summer of 2016.