We can have a better tomorrow
What do we do now? It seems like I have been asking this question of myself for a long time now.
Recently we all observed the two-year anniversary of an EF3 tornado that should have been more community crisis than anyone should ever have to endure. Since that July day two years ago, it feels like we have gone from one challenge to the next, one community tragedy to the next. Now we are embroiled in a national health crisis that led to an economic crisis.
In the middle of all of this, we are going through the growing pains of social justice reform. Growing pains that are necessary so we can secure equality and equity for all. It seems fair to say, we are crisis fatigued. There seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. The future is blurry. At least it is for me.
How are you doing? This is a question we often ask a friend or co-worker as we greet them. Do we pay attention to their response? I hope so.
When asked this question, I often respond, “How much time do you have?”
This is a tongue-in-cheek response. I think for many of us though, there is so much going on that we have become emotionally overwhelmed. At times, we are numb to it all. Now more than ever, we need someone to pull up a chair, and listen to what we have to say. We are all carrying around a tremendous burden of tangled emotions as we try to navigate these never ending challenges.
As we argue politics online or debate masks versus personal freedoms on social media, many of our neighbors are desperate for food. They are wondering how they will pay the rent. Good folks in our community are waging battles against addiction. Neighbors are weary from dealing with the mental health crisis of a loved one. We are all fighting COVID-19 fear at some level. We are starving for leadership and looking for help. Unemployment remains historically high. Underemployment continues to plague working class America. People continue the struggle for equality. They are fighting for a voice.
As we spend too much time within the comfort of the social media, it is easy to forget what is important. We lose sight of the plight of others. It is safer for us to do so and we are just so darn tired. Have we stopped counting our blessings in favor of counting perceived slights and grievances?
We can overcome all of this. We need leaders to step up and pull us forward through these difficult times. We all have the capacity for leadership and we should look to each other for inspiration. I am looking for four things from leaders I follow and from the people I work with. I think these four simple concepts can help us navigate difficult times:
• Awareness — We all need to put down our phones and open our eyes to the needs and struggles of others. Look beyond the tips of our noses and understand how we can be the difference in our community. Be engaged. Get involved. Open up your heart to a different point of view. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses and use this knowledge to make your community a better place.
• Vulnerability — Being vulnerable does not make you weak. It is a strength. Admitting our mistakes, and acknowledging the need to change is empowering. Vulnerability is an exceptional leadership trait. Making ourselves vulnerable allows us to open up our hearts and minds to a world of new ideas and perspectives. It builds trust. Vulnerability opens up lines of communication and can tear down walls of misunderstanding. It forces you to check your ego at the door. Remember, as a leader, it is not about you. If we make ourselves vulnerable, we are able to open ourselves up emotionally and establish truly meaningful bonds with people.
• Empathy — We all want others to understand our concerns. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of others more often and try to see things from their point of view. Approaching people with empathy builds relationships and makes it easier to solve problems of mutual concern. Listen to what people have to say and try to understand why they feel the way they do. Too often, we listen to respond. I am so guilty of this. Sometimes people just need us to listen. We can never truly solve problems until we find common ground. We cannot find common ground without empathy. Showing empathy for others does not cost you anything. Empathy does not mean you agree with everything you are hearing. It does mean you are able to appreciate the concerns of another. It helps build trust. It makes you a better person.
• Compassion — I ask our police officers to serve each day with passion and compassion. If you are not passionate about what you do, if you do not love it, find something else to do. Life is too short. We must also be compassionate in how we respond to others. Helping people solve problems or deal with a crisis requires a compassionate heart. Showing compassion for others shows you are committed to helping them. Compassion builds trust and respect. Compassionate leaders are able to nurture hope and commitment from others so we can work together to solve problems in our community.
There are many issues before us in Marshalltown. There are many issues before us in this great country. It is still a great country, by the way.
Sure, we still have many things we can do better. I am confident we will be better. I have this confidence because I believe in the people of this great community. Marshalltown is a community of strong, diverse and courageous people. So is America.
If we truly want to make a difference, it starts at the local level. It starts in our neighborhoods. Sometimes it starts in our own back yard. It starts with me. It starts with you. I am committed to being more aware and being more vulnerable. I will empathize with my neighbor. I will be urgently compassionate in my response to your concerns.
I challenge everyone now to be more engaged with our community. Stop partisan bickering. By working together, we will overcome all things. Working together, we can have a better tomorrow.
Mike Tupper is the Marshalltown Chief of Police.