OPINION: It’s time for Anchorage to work together and move forward

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” - Philippians 4:8

Most religions and philosophies espouse some version of the call to “count our blessings.” This doesn’t mean that we ignore bad things, just that we ought to regularly choose to focus on the things that we love and appreciate. This not only helps us to feel more joy and gratitude, it also reminds us and guides us to work toward building a future replete with ever more of these good things. It is a practice that reminds us that the world is what we make it.

Anchorage must do this now. The mayoral election has ended, and the national election has not yet reached a fever pitch. Here in this temporary respite from the cacophonous grind of partisan sniping, Anchorage can seize a brief moment for reflection. As we dispose of vandalized campaign signs, we can sweep away with them the vitriolic dehumanization of the “other” that poisons social media and pounds politicized pulpits. We have the rare opportunity to find common goals and work toward them together; an opportunity to count our shared blessings and the things that we together hold as honorable, just, and commendable. An opportunity to heal our hearts.

Where we focus our thoughts inevitably becomes our destination. The more we think about lunch the hungrier we become, the more we think about getting rich the greedier we become, and the more we think about politics as war, the more we will seek the battle rather than the goal of building the better future we hope for. In counting our blessings, we remind ourselves and each other to lift our eyes beyond the battle and toward the bright horizons beyond. In doing so, we often find that the people we were battling with yesterday are heading in a similar direction, and perhaps are able to take a few steps in that direction by our side.

“Anchorage isn’t the real Alaska,” goes the trite, tired trope, “but you can see the real Alaska from there.” This and other doom-posts are littering the post-election social media of those who forsake counting blessings in favor of proclaiming problems. Those of us who love Anchorage get the joke; like any city, we have our issues, and people like to shoot at the big target with a lazy joke.

But rather than shoot back, we’ll respond by counting our blessings and inviting them to share in them. We’ll invite them to our concerts and airports, and care for them in our hospitals and homes. We’ll look beyond the battle to the horizon, and welcome them to work with us as we build a better future. It’s what real Alaskans do.

The Rev. Matthew Schultz is an Anchorage pastor and a member of the steering committee of Christians for Equality.

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