peace and powerlessness

It’s late afternoon, and I just spent the past several hours in and out of prayer, tears, worship, and Facebook, then back to prayers, tears, worship… Now, I am listening to Elton John. Not because he’s ever been my favorite, but because for just a moment, I feel like a little girl again.

Life was far from perfect then, but somehow it seemed safer because I wasn’t really responsible for very much. I was a lower-income white kid bused across the city for school, because on paper I came from a predominantly minority neighborhood. I remember the kids I got along with – some black, some white, some hispanic. And, I remember those who really didn’t seem to like me – some black, some white, some hispanic. My dad was a Seattle Police Officer and I heard stories and overheard adult conversations about race riots. Sometimes, he would grow a really big beard and disappear for days during the years he was an undercover detective. When he came home, he often talked too freely and drank too much, and it didn’t very often feel peaceful or emotionally safe. Race stuff was a big deal, I could tell, but there wasn’t a lot of productive talk about it. At least not to an 8 year old girl.

One of my favorite friends was named Cherry Washington, and even though her mama looked at me funny and wouldn’t let Cherry come to my house, we would disappear into her room for some EWF and life, for a moment, would seem pretty good.

By the time I was in high school, we had moved east and I attended Issaquah High. Back then it was a cow town and I couldn’t have felt more out of place. I was pretty isolated from reality and just struggled to survive some pretty awkward years. College moved me even further east to attend Central Washington in Ellensburg, where I found myself again in lots of conversations about race, and once again saw these chasms that to be honest, made so little sense to me. Between being on staff, a sociology major, and the wake of the Rodney King verdict, I found myself again feeling helpless to bridge the gap between those I loved, and affecting social change in a way that made an actual difference.

Over the years, I have petitioned, emailed, squared off against racists, prayed, picketed, protested, cried and prayed again. It’s a significant challenge to live in this country sometimes. Even more so to do it with authenticity. Social media has added an extra layer not only to awareness, but also to endless opinions. Those of us with any sort of savvy or intelligence knows there is an issue.

The problem is that most of us also completely disagree with how to fix it.

Chatting with a friend recently, I shared how much my heart wants to be heard. To speak words that bring light to oppression, but in a way that will be actually heard by those who perhaps don’t really want to enter into the dialogue. Or change their own perspectives. Tethered between friends who call themselves Christians, Mormons, Christ-Followers, Agnostics, Atheists, Black, Asian, Hispanic, White, Middle Eastern…I long to be a conduit for conversation. For peace.

For just a bit of understanding.

So, before you jump to the conclusion that I hate one thing when I love another, or believe “A” because I support “B”, please take a deep breath and consider the possibility of what I am actually trying to say. Instead of being angry for what I am not saying, acknowledge what I AM. It’s really easy to have an opinion or agenda, and judge all others against yours, but when that is where we live, we just talk in circles.

True communication is far more about listening than anything else. You know what they say about opinions…

Our world is a mess. Of this, I am hopeful we all agree. For those of us who value humanity, it’s paramount that we focus not merely on our own perspective, but the big picture. Just as we are each gifted differently, so are we each designed to promote social health and equality in a unique way. You minister truth to these people, while I speak life to those. You speak your language, while I speak mine.

It’s time we stand together and not focus so much on what one another is NOT saying, or NOT doing, but rather find the commonality we all share.

At the end of the day, after I have done all the talking and marching and crying and advocating that I can, I am left with myself. And my God. I am reminded that alone in my efforts, there is little movement. BUT, in my heart for people, my prayer for others, and in raising up 4 of the next generation, perhaps, if I share enough, there will be 4 of me to continue marching towards the peace we all long for…

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