The Clarifying Power of What Next

Two words preoccupied me. What and Next.

I awakened with thoughts like: More fires today? More hurricanes? More political strife? More unnecessary Covid-19 deaths? More economic blows?

Those questions had me on the wrong path, wasting time on matters I can’t control.

Instead of feeling acted upon, I needed to drive action in a vital cause, one within my reach. That cause is the wellbeing of my fellow Parkinson’s disease sufferers.

Covid-19 has disrupted personal contact within Parkie communities, perhaps for years to come. That lost comradery was powerful “medicine” pushing back at Parkinson’s. (My MeOverPD foundation will resume our in-person work in Georgia and Florida when possible.)

My altered path centers on involvement with a new global PD community named PD Avengers. (www.pdavengers.com)

Now numbering 500-plus, PD Avengers’ goal is to mobilize the millions of people touched by Parkinson’s to prevent, advocate for and treat this fast-growing malady. Technology like Zoom is the tool for wiring our community.

Two powerful messages reached me last week that reinforce my course.

The first was from Emily M.D. Scott, a peripatetic, Lutheran minister. She reflected on the travels of Jesus’ Twelve Apostles.

“These solitary travelers journeyed in situations of great uncertainty, much like our own,” Scott wrote. “Their destinations may have been clear, but their futures were less so. Somewhere along the way, however, they always encountered something unexpected: the astonishing presence of the sacred. 

“Instead of clamoring to go ‘back,’ we can turn, and face into a future that is uncertain, but rife with possibilities to build a world that is more compassionate. There are others on the road ahead of us: the protesters who’ve flooded our streets, risking their health to call for a nation free of racist brutality. They can see a new world.” 

The second message came from Rich Harwood, president of the Harwood Institute. (www.theharwoodinstitute.org) He is my great and good friend. His life mission is building outward-focused, strong, resilient communities. His latest best-selling book is Stepping Forward.

His email concerned why personal resiliency alone is not enough to see us through our perils. 

“The challenges before us demand a shared response,” he said. “And let’s be clear: no one leader, organization, or group can address the fault lines that exist in our society. None of us during a time like this (or any time) can go it alone, on our own. It never works. We need each other. 

“To build a more hopeful, inclusive society, personal agency is indeed critical, but shared agency is essential

“We must actively and routinely reach out to others for support, to work together, and to go forward together. In doing so, I cannot emphasize this next point enough: each of us must recognize that in times like these, small steps in the right direction are so important, as they get us in motion, and when we are in motion, we gain confidence, and new possibilities arise. We make room for progress, serendipity, and hope.” 

Thank you, Emily and Rich. You helped clarify my What Next.


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