I want to celebrate Easter. I need to fling forth the flowery wreaths, hide the chocolate bunnies, and decorate the most unique eggs to make this season a springy one. I want to go to church and discover, once again, the good news.
But this spring, the current news is stealing my Easter.
I read about corruption, lying, cheating, misogyny, racism. I find stories of U.S. leaders working hard to trash education, healthcare, elderly and disabled care, and the environment all in a month or two.
I wish the news were fake just like those little plastic eggs I keep reusing. But no. This news is impossible to deny, and it's messy. It comes from highly reputable sources working for countless well-regarded publications. (This could not be a coincidence.) Plus, there are the hair-raising tweets flung directly from the unchecked mouths of our impulsive president and other men. I can't deny those.
I see pictures of well-suited guys wearing makeup, surrounded by impossibly perfect-looking women. Maybe it's me, but they don't appear human. I'm accosted, it seems, by stories about powerful leaders who are corrupt or who have inherited billions of dollars. They're doing deals on foreign soil, raising towers and hotels and launching lines of clothing while refugee children can't find a place to live, to sleep. I read propaganda that clearly takes advantage of those who feel forgotten, spreading paranoia and unsubstantiated claims, inciting hatred, racism and violence.
Hanging the flowery wreath in the midst of all of this horrible darkness sometimes seems inappropriate, doesn't it? But I continue to try my best to get Easter going.
According to my faith, Easter revolves around the defeat of death, the ascension of a simple, yet holy and powerful man. Jesus was a paradox. He did not have towers. He did not have friends in "high" places (unless you count God.) Jesus had very little. He was the son of a carpenter; he walked barefoot and rode a donkey. Yet, according to my faith, Jesus was the Son of God.
Whether you're a Christian or not, you've got to admit that history proves that Jesus was pretty special. He didn't get mired in hatred, in throwing punches at the opponent. He didn't make deals (even with the devil!) and he didn't hold a position in any popular political party. Jesus didn't speak in tweets, but he communicated in deeper metaphors that actually assumed his listeners would think for themselves. Jesus told stories about light, everlasting life, serving the meek, and blessing the poor. He spoke of love. He inspired action.
Jesus did not force. He asked his followers to uproot themselves, to live out their faith, to aim toward a goodness greater than any title, any policy, any man, any billionaire, running a nation.
Jesus asked his followers to hope.
This Easter, or spring or whatever you choose to recognize, I wonder if you'll join me in responding differently to the seemingly hopeless, crappy news. Don't deny it exists. Don't predict the end of democracy and the rise of Facism. Instead respond to the depressing news in a surprising new way.
Despite this hard winter of politics and hatred— plant yourself in truth, from here you will grow. Read articles, books, history, religion, philosophy, and sacred teachings. Study the leaders who are worthy of learning from. Don't allow the news of the day to determine your beliefs. Subscribe to a larger world-view.
Build a bridge or two by respecting and listening to the person on "the other side," with a different point-of-view, different religion, different political party, different economic status. Move away from hatred, as tempting as it may be. Sit in the uncomfortable position of not knowing the perfect, persuasive response to someone who infuriates you with a different viewpoint. Maybe there's more for you to learn.
Now, stare at the bad news hitting the press. Check the sources. Then share it. But then seek and speak about positive change. Praise policies and leadership that lift people UP, rather than tearing down. Affect change by respectfully sharing facts and ideas on social media. Calling your senator. Run for an office. Write letters or articles to promote change and policies that don't simply help you and your family, but also help those with less than you.
Finally, as if you are on a hunt for the most brilliant Easter egg— seek the place where your gifts are most needed. Whom do you have access to help? Is it the elderly woman you see sitting alone on her front porch? You become the meal provider, the caring neighbor. What about the special needs girl in third grade whom you know never gets invited on a play date? You become her inclusive community. Have you noticed that family without much money, whom no one invites to dinner? You become the new friend. Have you heard about the family of refugees in your town? You become the aide.
No matter your religion, consider Easter. It's time for renewal, don't you think?
This season has come for you and for me. It has come to insist that we do more than dream of chocolate and daffodils. Easter has arrived to pull us up from our tiny spot on earth, toward action— action that makes our nation, our world worthy, once again, of good news.
Ahead of Easter 2017, The Huffington Post South Africa is delving into what faith and spirituality means to South Africans here and now. Against the backdrop of a renewed wave of thought around decolonisation, a new generation are rediscovering their traditional beliefs, while some are reconciling with Christianity. And on another note, we tell South Africa's real good news story: our remarkable and peaceful religious diversity. In a world fractured along religious extremism, we have a large Christian population with significant Muslim and Jewish communities, who often come together peacefully and with purpose, as has been evinced at the memorials for departed struggle stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada. Read the rest of the special report here.