As I have pondered living in a democracy, my first instinct has not always been from a contemplative point of view. As I also consider Micah 6:8 ” O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you:to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. What is my stance as we move toward mid-term elections voting for our 435 Representatives and our 33 Senators? What, if any, is my role in the Central Valley to move toward protection of the vulnerable? Who defines the vulnerable in a politically divided region?

Parker Palmer’s, visionary 2011 text, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit informed my ponderings. I offer four insights taken directly from Palmer for you to consider. The book yields much more of his research and musings on the topic. What book/article informs you as you consider our democracy?

Politics is about weaving a fabric of compassion and justice for the vulnerable among us-our children, our elderly, our mentally ill, our poor, our refugees and our homeless. As they and other groups suffer, so does the integrity of our democracy. Where do you witness the vulnerable among us?

Palmer suggests five heart habits that each one needs to cultivate in a democracy. The first two habits center in “chutzpah”. Each person generates a civil voice to be heard and moves toward creating community. Both an inner boldness and act of courage are two essential habits to be valued as we come together to listen and to be heard. Intentional community building requires fearlessness as today we meet those who were yesterday’s strangers.

The three remaining habits find their focus in humility. Both the ability to hold differences of opinion and the value of one another are necessary to create a political system which seeks common ground. Each one of us acknowledges that our truth is partial and may not be true at all which opens us to the important potential of listening to others with respect and openness. As much as I need to exercise my voice with clarity and conviction so the reverse need of listening intently to the heart of the other is also true. Individuals with chutzpah and humility combine to form the kind of citizen who sustains a democracy. What characteristics do you deem essential to keeping a democracy?

In addition to the intentional character-building, there is intentional community building. Addressing the public narrative process, Palmer opines that each one of us has a story to tell that is uniquely ours. The second story in us are experiences and values which we share as a community; also, uniquely ours. Sharing aloud these stories of our pains and our hopes begin to form the “us” in community. We can come together in the communities where we live, walk, and live in our ordinary days. The third storyline in the public narrative is the fierce urgency of now and appreciating the challenges and conflicts between our multiple points of view. Our differences create tension which gives us an opportunity to weave relationships into hopeful actions. The alternative is to conquer and divide which only issues more violence to the process of building community. How might your story or your ability to listen to another’s story, be a movement toward hopeful actions?

When we learn we are surrounded by kindred souls, we begin to gather our collective imaginations, courage and power necessary to work for institutional change. What are institutional changes that await you?

As you think on these things, it’s worth noting that May 8th opens the primary election season in CA. Voting closes at 8 PM on Tuesday, 5 June.