This is the season we say thank you for all the gifts in our lives, and restore our belief that dreams and miracles happen, and peace and good will prevail.

This is not a good time to be reaching out to each other. As a culture we have grown cynical and mistrustful of the institutions that once sustained us (government, judiciary, police, religious institutions, Big Five accounting firms), and now it turns out we don’t trust each other.

A recently published Associated Press (AP/GfK ) Survey found that only 1/3 of all Americans believe that most people can be trusted.

One of the basic ingredients of a democracy, is a trust in the other fellow to make decisions based on the common good, not just our own. The current political gridlock is another reflection of what happens to a society when its members no longer trust in the common good and pursue only their own.  When that happens we no longer behave civilly toward each other.

Mistrust escalates fears, if you can’t trust 2/3 of the people you meet then it makes every stranger you encounter a potential trespasser. If you don’t trust the institutions to protect you, then you have to protect yourself. We are becoming a gun-toting, armed citizenry intensifying the boundaries between people.

The Survey also suggested that by the time we reach our mid-20s our attitudes about trust are pretty much set.  I found myself fretting about how our growing mistrust is becoming so deeply embedded that maybe it’s already too late to spread this season’s message. In the midst of these musings I learned the Nelson Mandela died. I loved him, the man and the symbol. I loved that after 27 years of imprisonment and torture for his stand against apartheid he did not emerge as someone seeking retribution and revenge. Instead he built a community based on reconciliation and compromise.

Nelson Mandela restored my flagging spirit, another gift from this remarkable man whose life and work are living testimony that we are capable of moving beyond our mistrust and isolation, to find a way to live together in shared humanity. In this season of thanks and miracles, thank you for reminding us to live the dream.

Rest in peace Madiba.