Action step #1: Acknowledge there is a disparity problem
When the story about the shooting of Charleston broke, many of us poured out our hearts with our thoughts, images, prayers, and newspaper articles on Facebook. We each wanted to feel united in the face of this horrible tragedy. As with all news stories though, the outraged cry simmered to a low heat and faded to the background. How many of us discussed the shooting with our friends? How many of us didn’t even ask what we can do? How many of us feel powerless?
My son asked, “How could that guy have been invited in and heard them talk about God and then decide to do something that terrible?” “Honey, he just had too much hate in his heart to even listen” was my simple answer. I once claimed to give these answers to provide comfort and the feel of safety, but now I realize it is the easy way out as a parent. This should be the beginning of our conversations with our kids, our friends, in our schools, at the dinner table—not the end. Am I teaching my son to feel grief and empathy- and then to move on, remain quiet, feel powerless? This is not the message I want to send.
Action step #2: Find ways to view different types of perspectives concerning the issues we face
Why aren’t we talking about these things with our children, our family, with our friends?
I am looking for conversations that will help us move forward, the ones where I look at your beautiful soul and see what perspective you are offering this world. The conversation could start with “I don’t know what to say sometimes. I feel awkward because this is a difficult subject for me.” “I always worry I am going to say something wrong.” “I am worried I might offend you. ““I don’t know if you feel like talking about this right now, but…”
Here is a little newsflash. Your conversation, the one you are proposing to have from a heart-centered space, filled with good intentions, will not bring something up that isn’t already at the core of who they are or how they feel. Oppression, grief, and being in the midst of an overwhelmingly difficult situation becomes woven in to the fabric of someone’s being. Your conversation won’t remind them of something they don’t already think about a hundred times a day. Instead, it will remind them that they are not alone, that someone is willing to get in to that vulnerable place with them.
What if we don’t agree? What if we can’t even start from a place rooted in love? We can still say, “I hear you. I vehemently disagree with you. I love you.”
Action Step #3: Start the awkward conversations
I want to stop living life from over here and to start inviting each of us into our “messiness”- our prejudices, our assumptions, our hopes, our fears. Let’s stop claiming the work is to buy matching USA flag t-shirts for the whole family from Old Navy and post it on Instagram. Let this be the a celebration of how far we have come- and an acknowledgment that there is plenty more to be done. Let changing the status of your profile picture to a rainbow be at the beginning of how we treat one another, not just a temporary status.
I admit I have had blinders on for far too long. I want to start having the conversations and not knowing the exact right thing to say. I am willing to put my foot in my mouth and to not be politically correct. I have a choice. I can continue to sit in the stands, to be part of the crowd, and shake my head again when the the next shooting occurs or I can choose to stand up. I want to find my voice, the one I heard many years ago in my classroom and blurt out, “But that’s not fair!” I want to open my eyes to those things I have chosen not to witness in the past. I want to acknowledge what doesn’t directly affect my day-to-day life but keeps others up at night. I want to show my children that we if truly want the big things to stop happening, each of us needs to find little ways to inch closer to the world we want to live in.
When we involve ourselves by exercising our right to vote, we are not only celebrating our history but we are also taking the time to share in the responsibility for where we are headed as a nation. What do we want our nation to look like? How can we move towards the peace and justice we claim as our own? Its cliche but I can only picture the old advertisement with Uncle Sam. “We want YOU!” We are all being called to acknowledge the problem, find ways to let it in, and to start the difficult conversations. Let’s remember how far we have come. (Just witness the voting line on election day to remember how far we have come!) Let’s also have this be the start of the conversation that we have with our friends, in our homes, and with each other.