An old story is told of a monk named Birdsnest who sits high atop a tree and dispenses wisdom to the curious below.
One day a governor travels from several states over to ask him, “Birdsnest, what should I do?” After a few moments, the monk replies, “Always do good things; never do bad.”
This infuriates the governor, who cries out, “I have come all this way to hear that? I knew that when I was a child!”
“So?” the monk replies. “Have you done it?”
This is the question Americans must ask themselves today, in the wake of violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., after the shooting of an unarmed black youth by a white police officer.
As we sit here today, most of us have little idea what transpired in that fateful confrontation. Authorities must sort it out knowing the nation is watching closely.
But what we do know is what works and what doesn’t.
We know that there are principles that successful people follow. Living responsibly; staying in school; avoiding drugs; delaying pregnancy; getting and staying married; thinking of others first, and more. We’re taught all this – or at least we used to be. Honest, open minds, though, know these things intrinsically, or stumble upon such truths in their everyday experiences.
But the main thing that we all know that works – and which we don’t do enough – is love.
That may sound as trite to you as the monk’s advice did to the governor – but do we do it?
Love leads to respect and civility, the building blocks of a peaceful, safe, civilized community or country.
Are we doing it?
It has been said that “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” Birdsnest could not have said it better. But the same goes for individuals and communities. Societies, especially free ones, are constructed by individuals – one individual act at a time.
After an incident such as the one in Ferguson, a little love goes a long way.