The place that many around America know as the swamp, is the very place that I call home. Yes, it’s the nation’s capital, but to me, it’s my neighborhood, filled with neighbors who love and care deeply about creating change in the world — even though we all might disagree about how exactly and what precisely to change.
There are so many things that make D.C. what it is. And it’s not all cherry blossoms and monuments. It’s real, hard, day-after-day toil. Most of which amounts to chasing after the wind, as it’s referred to in Ecclesiastes. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth it.
The people in D.C. are first and foremost what keeps me living in this city. People who come from all over America. Heck, people who come from all over the world, with the hope of improving the lives of others. What a delight it is to have the opportunity to chat with people about various subjects ranging from religious freedom to human trafficking to pressing security challenges, to “you-name-it, someone-cares-about-it” subjects.
Whether it’s mentoring interns fresh out of college or being mentored by incredible scholars and practitioners who are generous enough to take time to invest in me and others all around them, D.C. is filled with people who are willing to make sacrifices.
No matter what draws people to D.C. — whether temporarily or permanently — what keeps them here is a deep desire to learn and to use that knowledge to facilitate change. These people are deeply passionate and devote working hours, their personal prayer and thought life, and spare hours to develop better solutions to pressing challenges.
The famous D.C. trope is that it’s just full of people who are power-hungry, selfish, scuzzy individuals. And sure, there are some of those. But for everyone rotten apple in the bunch, I’ve met ten more who are earnestly seeking a better way forward for the U.S.
But I think what has amazed me the most about coming to D.C. is how many people really care. It’s not all swamp, and it’s not all a garden full of roses, either. I know that I’m painting an idealistic vision of D.C., and that I’ve only worked here for five years, but I think we get enough coverage of the bad side of D.C. from the news media and far, far too little of the good.
At the end of the day, people in D.C. are just like everyone else living anywhere else in the U.S. We eat, drink, and be merry just as much as the next person. And we also worry about our kids future, our next job, and love (or hate) our dog just as much as anyone else. We also shop, and picnic, and do life with our friends. And we go to sleep when the sun sets and wake up every morning when it rises bleary-eyed and ready to face the day.
Sure we live in a bubble. But so does everyone else. Everyone lives in a bubble of their own choosing that has its own eccentricities and specialties. Ours is just policy-oriented, and solutions-based, and in some cases, a little better off than some of the other bubbles.
And just like everyone else in every other bubble, our responsibility is to try to understand the joys and sorrows of people living in the other bubbles. So long as we do that — mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice — I have confidence that the world will keep spinning on its axle and life will keep on moving.
Here’s to hoping that we don’t let this short, but sweet life pass us by without appreciating wherever we are placed and relishing all the little things that make where we are placed ever so special.
I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. ~ Ecclesiastes 3:12-14