This morning I enjoyed reading an article that my husband sent me about how important music is to those who are dying. He sent it to me because I am in the Threshold Choir, a group that sends several people at a time to sing at a person’s bedside when they are near the end of their life. Reading the article triggered a memory that I had suppressed. In 2012, I accompanied my mother home in an ambulance as she was released from the ICU to go home to die. She sang with delight that she was going to be able to die at home. She was transferred to a hospital bed in her living room and had an attendant for that first night home. I stayed in her bedroom. In the middle of the night I heard the attendant and my mother arguing with each other. The attendant kept turning off the music that my mother was playing and telling my mother to go to sleep. I got up – turned the music back on, and told the attendant that it was my mother’s choice to listen to the music and it was going to stay on! Music comforted my mother more than anything else. I was angry at the attendant for turning it off.
You may wonder what any of this has to do with Donald Trump. As I thought about this memory, I began to wonder about the attendant. She was working two back-to-back 12-hour shifts. That is why she wanted to sleep through the night. She chose night shifts with the thought that she could sleep at night and be fresh for her next day’s work. That was the last thing on my mind because my interest was for my mother to have whatever she wanted during her last days on earth. More than four years later I’m thinking about that attendant in the way that I think about Trump supporters. There is always a reason that someone believes what they believe – or behaves the way they behave. Everyone has a story. The attendant was tired. The Trump supporter may have a major issue with a woman’s right to choose, or with unemployment. The rhetoric that they hear from Donald Trump may give them hope, however unjustified.
In these coming weeks, months, years, we are going to have to learn to hear each other across the great divide. It will not be easy. There will be no quick fixes, but whatever the election outcome we can no longer live in our little cocoons of certainty and righteousness. No. It’s going to be messy and difficult. I plan to give some effort to understanding people who have different beliefs than mine. I hope you will, too.