Seven Questions for Ugly Times

These are ugly times. Nearly 80 percent of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction. The economy is going downhill. Two wars remain open-ended. The presidential campaign is in danger of becoming a caricature of itself. In times like these, we want to say, "Enough!" Here's how.I could give you a long treatise on where we are, or a prescription for what to do next, but neither would hit the mark of what I sense is needed right now. At issue is how you and others of goodwill can change the dynamics of how we're living and where we're headed. How can you gain some semblance of control over current affairs? What can you do to feel that your good values and authentic hopes are better reflected in these ugly times?

To tackle these challenges, I offer you these 7 Questions for Ugly Times. My goal here is not some kind of silly engagement ploy -- you know, "Let's get more people holding hands and singing Kum-ba-yah," or something like that. Rather, it is only by talking with others, in real ways, that any of us can sort out and know what we really think; it is only then, that you can begin to see and hear yourself.

When you step forward and join with others you can change the current conditions.

I urge you to think about these 7 Questions for Ugly Times on your own, and then to find one or two other people to talk with. (The questions are in a particular order to help you think about things, so you'll want to follow the sequence.) Here are the questions: 1.  What do you think of how things in the country are going today -- and why?

2.  What are you most concerned about?

3.  What aspirations do you hold these days?

4.  What urge exists within you to make your community and life better?

5.  Name 2 things (and only 2) you can do, starting now, that can help you fulfill your aspirations and meet your urge within.

6.  Looking ahead, how will you know you have made progress on these 2 items?

7.  What does it mean to you to make good on your urge to do good? Please send me back any and all of your thoughts. You can reply here on the blog, or send me a direct email at rharwood@theharwoodinstitute.org.  My hope is that not only you will share your thoughts with those closest to you, but with our growing network, so that together we can create the kind of change we need.

Each of us knows that none of us alone can change the direction of the country, or even our local community. But when we become clearer about what we hold to be valuable in our lives, when we come to more fully understand and express those beliefs, and when we take small steps forward, we will find ourselves moving in the right direction. Our choices can better reflect who we are. We can create the community we want. These steps are the beginning of all small change, and it is the seedbed for larger things to come.

Today, there is a vast reservoir of untapped energy in the country -- in you, and in others. People want to be a part of something larger than themselves and they want to make a difference. Now, turn your frustrations into something good.

Answer these 7 Questions for Ugly Times. In doing so, you can find ways to better fulfill your own hopes, and you can make good on your urge to do good.

I'm anxious to hear from you.