To help bring our community together in a time of extreme polarization, LebTown has invited a variety of community leaders to share columns this week on the topic of unitedness and healing.

We feel this topic is important to discuss given the unprecedented protest activity we witnessed across the nation last week, as well as the increased stress felt right now by many due to the ongoing public health and economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

If you would like to submit your own column to LebTown, please start by reading our guidelines here.

Our nation and our community are at a crossroads. Only we, as individuals, can overcome the divide. We, as individuals, must lead the way to compassion, understanding and empathy towards one another.

I was raised in a very poor family. My dad died when I was three. My mom, may she rest in peace, always told me to put yourself in another’s shoes before judging.

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In my walk across America for children with disabilities in 2014, I was amazed that in 147 days, I had positive experiences only. People of all backgrounds were so kind and compassionate. Many friendships were forged during that trip. My faith in people was energized.

During my journey, I realized WE are the solution.

Solutions come from our hearts and our souls to have an open, honest dialogue to craft meaningful solutions from within to solve such complex problems as we have. Our government, our churches, our community will follow our lead. Change comes from within us.

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The deteriorating nature of public discourse and the disdain with which people interact with one another, particularly on social media, have stunned me.

In the past month, two extraordinarily different yet related events played out in the American landscape.

The first, the protests to reopen Pennsylvania, created strong emotions in central Pa. media and in public discourse. The public was divided.

The second event was the horrific and tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN. The nation exploded over the senseless brutality by one person against another human being. Protesters and the public at large rightfully demanded accountability and yet a few rioted. The nation was divided again.

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Coping skills are essential to allow for civil discourse and for the advancement of society. Coping skills reflect the character of a nation and of us as individuals.

The character of a nation and its core values determine whether our community will survive.

A core value is intrinsically who you are. The core value is your character, compassion, understanding and empathy. For me, it is framed by my Christian faith.

Compassion is a core value.

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Coping is a core value.

Taking responsibility for your actions is a core value.

These three core values taken together benefit society and set the stage for long-term advancement of our community.

Our nation is in trouble. For decades we have postponed making difficult decisions.

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Until we achieve a mutual respect and learn to disagree respectfully, our nation will never tackle our most difficult challenges.

The next time you respond to someone I would encourage you to determine whether or not you are acting with compassion, understanding, and persuasive logic. Your response says as much about you as it does our community.

I genuinely look forward to a meaningful dialogue with our community to address our pressing concerns and to listen intently to how we can overcome our challenges for the benefit of those who are hurting.

Frank Ryan is the state Representative for the 101st Legislative District, which includes southern and western portions of Lebanon County. Ryan is a CPA and a retired U.S. Marine Reserve Colonel.

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