Smile on Your Brother

Author’s Note: This is the second in a series of pieces inspired by or reflective of my painted work. Some of my contemplations will lead me to the work of others. Some will feature mine alone. Some will do both. I hope you enjoy all of them.

I’ve had a song ringing in my head all week. It was 1967 when the Youngbloods released the song, “Get Together”. Here’s a beautiful, more contemporary version of the song.

I was a young adolescent then, and the world was not much different from the way it is today. Oh yes, the motivators for fear and outcry were different. There was the war in Vietnam, the battle of government versus the people, radical and outspoken opinions, hippies to Hells Angels. But the reactions were the same … all prompted by fear.

So many times we left our seats feeling empty, knowing our wishes for an end to the war were not granted that day.

In those days, we made sure to eat dinners early and get on with the chores of cleaning up, all for the sake of watching the evening news. We adjourned to the living room to take our front row seats for the horror show. Our favorite host for the show was Walter Cronkite. He was eloquent, reassuring, and calm. Every day, that well-respected man delivered the barbaric body count from the Vietnam War with the most eloquent tone and the most objective face he could muster. The news was news. So many times we left our seats feeling empty, knowing our wishes for an end to the war were not granted that day. Time went on. We watched. We waited. Does this sound or feel familiar?

That was more than 50 years ago. So many opportunities to learn have been bestowed on us and wasted. Wasted on blame — you know, that glue that bonds people in their abdication of responsibility. Since then, we’ve had radical political leaders. We’ve had wars in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We’ve had SARS and the Hong Kong flu. We’ve seen the Berlin Wall and the World Trade Center come down. Wasn’t that enough?

Love is but a song we sing
Fear’s the way we die.
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry.
Though the dove is on the wing,
And you may not know why …

No, still today we bicker. When cases of COVID 19 started to hit the US, I thought to myself, “Maybe this time.“ We seemed to have learned at first. There seemed to be senses of fellowship and community. I’m starting to wonder where it’s all going.

As each day passes, I find it diluted, giving way to bickering, mocking with slanderous disagreement.

That fellowship and community are being sacrificed on the altar of mean-spiritedness and Monday morning quarterbacking. And, yes, we have a new body count.

Maybe it’s that last little bit of hippie in me or the dusty old remnants of my ‘60s radical coming out, but I’m not giving up. I just can’t stand by and let this opportunity we have right now go to waste. Why? Because I believe in the good. I believe we can learn, be generous, be supportive. I’m hoping there are enough of us out there who can make positive change. My artillery will be kindness, awareness, bravery, compassion, and you.

Come on people now,
Smile on your brother,
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now, right now, right now.


Anne O'Brien
Anne O'Brien
Anne is the founder and Principal of The ArtFitters. At an early age, she found herself drawing house plans, enjoying visits to the furniture store, even staging and re-staging her bedroom. At the age of eight, she was more interested in picking out wallpaper, reupholstering furniture, and re-decorating rooms than going out to play. Over the course of her professional life, the scopes of her projects grew larger. Her exposure to styles, materials, and furnishing became more broad. Today, with more than 20 years of experience behind her, Anne is a visually inventive conceptual thinker who always sees the big picture. From residential re-design and staging to managing a $190 million dollar commercial property portfolio, artful re-creation and adaptive re-use inspire her. And she’s worked with franchisors to implement design standards that have been applied nationally. While managing commercial facilities and designing interiors, Anne always made time for art. She’s had instruction in sculpting, pottery, Norwegian folk art, wood carving, dress design, jewelry design, and interior design. She’s studied painting at the Borgo Rinascimento International School of Art in Farnesi, Italy, and with numerous artists. You can see a selection of her work at PaintingsbyAnne.

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  1. Anne — You brought back some powerful memories. I was watching Walter Cronkite when you were watching Walter Cronkite.

    To your message, as I responded to another one of our colleagues here recently, “Hate, and first cousin, fear, sell.” Whether is justified or manufactured, and a lot of it today is simply manufactured. That’s why a certain radio personality makes somewhere in the vicinity of $85 million a year for spewing what the eagle left on the rock. That’s why a certain TV commentator makes about $35 million a year for doing the same. Fear and hate sell.

    So I decided to sing along with the song I know so well and embrace your message: “My artillery will be kindness, awareness, bravery, compassion, and you.” Standing along with you, Anne.

  2. Thank you for sharing your perspective Anne. I wasn’t alive during the Vietnam War. Thinking about the similarities in the human experience during those times is pretty eye opening. And it makes me wonder what my kids will remember about this time. We don’t watch the news but I’m sure there are things engraving their psyche.

    • Good point JoAnna. Children are so impressionable. I too am curious what events will stick and how memories will be shaped. Also, I do believe our lifestyle will change and their growth years will be different from ours.

  3. Kindness, compassion and bravery… and “ you”. Oh so compelling Anne🙏🙏🙏 This is the time for people to put away the artillery of blame, power, shame and the need to conquer and to yield to the weapons of the heart. The core of humanity that connects us all Is the force needed to see we really do Have to feel each other here. . We look to others for affirmation and support… we need to look in the right direction.instead of looking up…see who is beside us…” you”…this is the time to make a difference! Thank you for this beautiful song.

    There’s something amiss

    If the tears of an angel
    Don’t make you cry…🙏

  4. Allow me to say that you have chosen the right “weapons” to face this moment and also the after.
    We must not allow ourselves to be influenced by the perception that people often have of a difficult period, short or long that is, as of something that never ends, as if the moment of stress and social difficulty, which unites so many people, was no end. We must be aware, as history shows us, that every difficult period has a beginning, a duration and an end. What we can and must do is to use all the means and all the resources we have available above all internally, to get out of it as soon as possible. Each of us, in fact, has within it a set of personal resources which it can draw upon to solve every difficulty, every problem or discomfort that it will face, both personal and social. These resources can be part of various levels: physical, psychological, relational and spiritual. And they can be stimulated and come out into the open in every occasion of our life, when for one reason or another we are faced with tests, experiences and challenges that we want to overcome.
    Even in this particular delicate period that we are facing, we can use our personal resources, even to improve ourselves.

    • Well said Aldo. I like that you mentioned that difficult periods have a beginning, duration and end. Your point that we all have a set of personal resources to resolve our difficulties is key.

  5. Thank you for sharing this one, Anne. Not only do I love this song, but you make a wonderful connection to our current situation. I, too, believe in the good and that we can come together with kindness, compassion, and goodness.

    And now that I have that song in my head for the day, perhaps you’ve inspired a new Sunday playlist. Thank you for that, too!

    • You are welcome Melissa. I have to let you know that reading your book:.”Happier Hour With Einstein” started all of this self-expression. It is taking me a while as I read page by page and reflect so I can have more conscious awareness. So, it is you I need to thank! I’m learning about learning and realizing the power of flow! It’s a great book.

  6. Hi, Anne.

    I got to see Jesse Colin Young at Mary Baldwin College in ’68 or ’69, (my memories of those years can sometimes blur, for some reason). It was a very small crowd, for some reason, as he was very popular then. Anyhow, he was terrific.

    I also have always kept Stevie Wonder’s “Love’s in Need of Love Today” close to me. I played blues for a living for some time, and the power of music to connect with thousands of strangers still moves me. It’s the compete deal when it comes to paying attention.

    In the work I do now, people throw around the term “soft skills.” If they’re so soft, why does it sometimes seem so hard for people to embrace them?

    Be good. And well.

    • There is such great power in music Mac. Its a language all of its own. We’ll keep those songs in our heads and perhaps sing them out loud every once in a while.