There’s healing power in a united community

As seen in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, United Way of Greater Atlanta CEO Milton J. Little Jr.’s annual holiday op-ed.

Challenging, painful, tragic, horrific, and devastating are some of the year’s headlines pulled from media outlets from across our country. There is no secret that we as a country are hurting from all that we have and continue to endure—violence, intolerance, and disparity. In addition, the polarizing events leading up to and following the presidential election, have put further stress on civility and revealed how deep the divisions truly are. We are a nation looking into the future unsure of the path toward healing and unity.

However, here in the Greater Atlanta region, we have been a longtime model for victory during times of despair. We have a history of turning things around despite the odds. Despite living with different beliefs, we have experienced war, civil unrest, and crippling natural disasters, but we worked together to turn the tide toward hope. Through our “can do” attitude and the spirit of “The Atlanta Way,” we have demonstrated our desire to come together as global city hosting international events, as a regional technology hub, and as home to nearly a quarter of Fortune 500 companies. We have time and time again demonstrated the words of our fallen fellow Atlantan, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who stated “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

We are a committed congregation of caring people who are feeling the pain and uncertainty of change, and have the opportunity to lead our region through empathy, passion and — by example — lead the nation toward healing and the re-engineering of what will again become a diverse and united community.

As we enter this holiday season, we have the opportunity to reflect on the year and this new path ahead; one that we are challenged to walk together with a solution in sight. We have a chance to truly take what we have learned from the past and challenge ourselves to come together, look toward the future and prioritize the needs of the next generations who are looking to us for strength and guidance — just as we have always provided before. The youth are our future, and whether silently or through overt cries for help deserve our time, patience and nurturing hearts to help move them through life’s terrain without harm.

The one thing that we should all agree on, is that it all starts with the children. Our children are the best measure of the health and wellness of our community. The well-being of our children is what will let us know if we have done our part to square with the ideas of tolerance and nurturing a community in healing. We can support our children and lay the foundation to cultivate them — and by extension the community overall — by first being committed to this idea of “oneness” and then acting on it to selflessly put our children first.

The children of the Greater Atlanta region are asking for our help. They need us to be their champions and to lead together with a tolerant spirit focused on ensuring healthy and safe environments for them to grow and reach their full potential. By providing a unified spirit of diverse leadership through productive connections, within the schools and in the community overall, we can encourage life beyond the status quo. By living with that “can do” attitude that allows us to focus on strengthening the foundation of our community, we will unite and provide the opportunity for a bright future for generations to come.