One of my favorite TV shows right now is The Last Man on Earth. The show’s premise is that a viral outbreak has killed nearly all people and animals, save a few who were immune or unexposed. At the beginning of the show, we meet Phil Miller, who’s been traveling the country trying to find other survivors after losing everyone he knew. He’s miserable and lonely, and just when he’s about to give up on life, he meets another survivor, Carol. As the series progresses, a few others join them. Phil struggles to adjust to living with people again. The circumstances bring together dissimilar people who likely would not have crossed paths before the virus, and we watch them try to figure out how to live in this new world. The show is quirky, funny, creative, and at times poignant, though it’s not as depressing as you might guess.
One of my earliest childhood memories is of an Easter egg hunt that my dad’s company hosted when I was about three. On a sunny Saturday morning, the employees’ young children gathered in front of a building facing a big lawn where plastic eggs had been scattered. Someone said go, and a mob of older children sprinted onto the grass, grabbing eggs and shoving them into plastic bags. I was younger than most of the kids and wasn’t entirely sure what was happening. The eggs hadn’t been hidden well; it wasn’t a hunt so much as a race. My little legs couldn’t run very fast, and it seemed like every time my searching eyes spotted a brightly colored piece of plastic, someone else got to it before I did. Within a few minutes, all of the eggs had been captured. I had one lonely egg in my clear plastic bag.
The public radio program On Being, as part of its Civil Conversations Project, recently aired an interview called “Repairing the Breach” (transcript). The show featured a white male Libertarian leader of the Tea Party movement, Matt Kibbe, and a black female millennial progressive leader, Heather McGhee, discussing how we can engage difference and better understand each other.
Near the end of the show (at 44:30), Heather brought up a conversation she had with Gary from North Carolina on a C-SPAN call-in show last year. Gary called into the show, admitted to being prejudiced, and explained why he thought he held certain attitudes. Then he asked Ms. McGhee how he could change, “to become a better American.” McGhee thanked him for his honesty and offered suggestions such as getting to know black families, reading books about the history of African-Americans in the U.S., or attending a black church. The video clip went viral.
I’m a big believer in the transformative and connective power of telling your story. It’s been almost a year now since I began my practice of writing creatively on a nearly daily basis, and I have learned so much about myself in the process. While most of what I’ve written has never been shared publicly, taking the time to reflect on the events of my life and how they’ve shaped me has been truly invaluable from a personal development perspective. And while I was a little nervous about starting this blog and putting my thoughts and personal stories out there on the internet for anyone to read, I’ve been so moved and encouraged by the feedback I’ve received. I love getting an email or comment from someone who can relate to what I’ve posted, and this blog has helped to deepen the conversations I have with some of the people in my life.