Today, we made it. On time. Ready for the Kindergarten Halloween Poetry performance. After getting my dates mixed up a couple weeks ago, we finally got to see the bats and witches, owls and ghosts recite their lines – full of excitement and glee. They were adorable. Today, we managed to get to school sans the tears and drama of our 1st attempt at the poetry morning…the morning when I got it all wrong. As we walked to school, Nathaniel said, ‘Are you sure it is today?’. I replied, ‘Yes, I’m sure. Your teacher sent out a note just last night to remind us of the poetry morning today.’ He continued, ‘but, I feel a little silly in my bat costume.’ I could see him scouting the kids around us, looking for someone else in a costume or any kind reassurance that today would not be a repeat of our prior snafu. I told him again, how sorry I was, for the morning when I got my dates confused. I told him mommy had made a mistake, but this time we’d get it right. He replied: ‘I trust you’. My heart melted.
The Day After
In less than two weeks, we will know our President for the next four years. There will be a November 9th….a day when we begin to pick up the pieces of this political season. The yard signs will come up, and we will decide how we want to move forward. I haven’t blogged in a few days….partly because my kids have an early-release schedule this week (translation: I am getting NOTHING done) ….and, partly because like so many others, I’m just weary of the whole thing. I saw a bumper sticker the other day that I think captures the sentiments of many. We just want it over.
The day after the election, we will know our next President, but we wont know entirely how this will all play out; we will still have a lot of choices about how we as a nation want to move forward. I hope we collectively decide that working together is better than fighting it out. As the saying goes, an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. I pray that grownups could show some grace and uphold the worth of others by saying, “I trust you – let’s work this out together”.
Understanding Race in MY LIFE
I’m part of a group of women studying racism and white privilege. We went into it thinking that we had this issue mostly figured out. But, I confess that we’ve all been challenged to shift our understanding of both ourselves and this issue. At our last gathering, something clicked. I’d never been able to figure out why I, a Caucasian girl from a conservative, Midwestern family, would be so drawn to Asian people and cultures. Not that it’s wierd, but why? As a child, many of my best friends were 2nd generation immigrants; their parents migrated from Asia as young adults, eventually starting families in the Chicago suburbs. Listening to another woman talk about her faith background, the dots connected in my brain…something clicked.
Growing up in the Pentecostal church, we weren’t allowed to wear makeup or jewelry, we couldn’t watch TV, listen to secular music or dance. With my school friends, I pretended to know about shows or musicians, when in truth I was clueless. Eventually, we did get a TV, but when church friends came over, we told them it was only for watching movies. Women had to wear skirts and couldn’t cut their hair. I learned how to style my hair in ways that hid the fact that we’d trimmed my super long, thick locks. We epitomized a ‘holy huddle’. The outside world was one you could not trust. Our church was 45 minutes away, so I only saw church friends on the weekend. In the days between services, I felt like a leaf blowing in the wind. I was disconnected, uninformed and fearful. Nothing felt right. Nowhere was home. Even if I epitomized the holy huddle, I wasn’t really in it.
But, belonging was born out of my friendships with the Asian kids at school. From their acceptance, grew curiosity. And, over the decades, I came to love the colors, flavors and history of Asian history and culture. I was learning to not be afraid. The kids with roots in a world far away, were helping me find my footing in own backyard.
These days, I believe that the world is wonderfully diverse and inherently fascinating. Its merits alone, were sufficient to draw me in long ago. But, till that night, talking about racism and who I am as a white woman, I hadn’t really understood how the broken pieces of my heart had created a space. The void was filled with kids who looked so different on the outside, but shared a common feeling on the inside. It now made sense. These kids, like me, were outsiders. To be clear, this was not the club of loners and misfits! None of us were bullied or overtly excluded. Rather, it was this super-subtle sense of belonging. We were all disconnected one degree from the world around us, but therein lied the key for connecting with one another.
Black Lives Matter
Jen Hatmaker has written at length about how adopting two children from Ethiopia opened her eyes to the world of racism in our country. In an RNS article published yesterday, she says, “My son is good to the core. When I think about him being viewed as criminal, dangerous, threatening, in any scenario — driving, walking, changing lanes, hanging around with his friends — I could just come unraveled. It terrifies me. I could cry my eyes out right now.” I can’t claim to understand the pain and fear that our African American brothers and sisters face. But, the small taste that I have known, being in a mixed marriage with biracial kids, is enough to make me cry my eyes out with Jen.
Richard and Mildred
Today, I saw a trailer for a new film called, Loving. #MoreCrying It is based upon the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, who are sentenced to prison in Virginia in 1958 for getting married. Over and over, I watch the trailer – it haunts me. Folks, interracial marriage was illegal until just 10 years before I was born. Only one generation separated Richard and Mildred from Dayna and Jay. So, yes, it’s personal. And, it’s scary to see the vitriol and hate that has been out on full display of late. These are not the battles of some bygone era.
Since coming to California, I’ve enjoyed the relative progressiveness and diversity of Silicon Valley. Racism was something other geographies grappled with – but not us. We, especially here in the shadows of Stanford and Berkeley, knew better; we were smart enough to drive global technology, believe in global warming, love people of all colors or beliefs and, for sure, support investments in things like, education.
Sorry to sound like Trump, but WRONG. Just like when I thought I knew the date and time of my son’s poetry reading, I was wrong in my assumptions of my own community. In May, Menlo Park residents rejected proposals to continue vital public school funding (parcel tax). Now that beloved programs like music, art, languages and more are on the chopping block, many (especially, parents) are freaking out. And, rightly so, but it’s been sobering to read comments by those who STILL question whether our schools need to be ‘that great’. So much for living with the enlightened in the shadows of the Ivy Leagues.
Just a few days ago, our town made it into the New York Times, in an article recounting how a Latino woman (who is a citizen) was told in an upscale market that she should visit the Safeway across town, as this place was for ‘white people’. Around town, the response afterwards ranged from calls to reject racism to skepticism that such events actually happen in our area. Even as many have offered their own encounters with racism, there are still a few who worry more for the reputation of our local high-end grocery than for those on the receiving end of such discrimination and injustice.
Reading the online discussions that play-out on Facebook and Nextdoor.com in the days following these incidents, you realize that fear, distrust and a fair bit of incivility lives on…..even in my beloved Bay Area. Places built on change and innovation, can still struggle to accept ideas and people different from themselves. My point here isn’t to beat-up on the Bay (because I LOVE California!!!) but rather to just make the point that we ALL have stuff to work on.
Part of the reason folks are so riled up this election season, is because those who thought they knew what our country was all about, feel like it is changing. And, that’s scary. And, those who have been pushed to the sidelines for a long time, finally see a fighting chance for greater acceptance or equality. Whether the battle lines are drawn based upon race, gender, economics, religion, education or some other qualifier – the nation is waiting to see how the scales will tip. And, trust me – they ARE tipping. We can’t change that. But, what we can change is our response. J.D. Vance, in his new bestselling book, Hillbilly Elegy, says “whenever people
ask me what I’d most like to change about the white working class, I say, “The feeling that our choices don’t matter.” This November, we remember that democracy is not a spectator sport; we must be the people. Whatever our color or creed, our choices DO matter. Our vote matters. And, on November 9th, we get another important choice about how we respond. Regardless who is elected President, there will still be conversations at the grocery store and parcel tax votes. From our attitude in the car line at school to our mindset at work…it all matters. What happens at the national level, is often a byproduct of what’s happening at a more micro level in our own communities.
Get Over it – Nobody’s Perfect
Brene Brown says in Daring Greatly, that true belonging can only happen we offer “our authentic, imperfect selves to the world.” Deep within all of us, is a desire to belong. And, newsflash: the road to belonging is littered with messy, broken people – starting with me. In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg writes, “To accept people is to be for them. It is to recognize that it is a very good thing that these people are alive, and to long for the best for them. It does not, of course, mean to approve of everything they do. It means to continue to want what is best for their souls no matter what they do.” Guess which people God accepts? Last time I checked John 3:16, it said, ‘For God so loved the world…’. That kinda sounds like everyone….on planet earth.
Seriously, Let’s Play Nice
So, here’s the deal: we might not love every person or policy after November 9th. But, we do have a choice of whether we make space for and accept those who don’t look or pray or love or vote like us. We may even have to revisit issues we thought we had all figured out; maybe we were wrong. There’s another great line in Ortberg’s book where he says, “Bitterness is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” Isn’t that the truth! Too bad most of us stick these sayings on the walls of our home or Facebook profile, but rarely our heart. The reality is that staying angry won’t help anyone. Finding belonging by excluding others, won’t do any good. In the Loving trailer, Mildred says, “I know we have some enemies, but we have some friends too.” Maybe it’s time that others know they have a friend in us, even if we don’t always agree. Maybe it’s time to let go of some things and just try to be nice.
The Bible talks of childlike faith. This morning, my son and I were running late. Again. As we hurried down the street, I slowed my mind enough to bookmark the moment when my son, with every reason to doubt me, said, “I trust you”. The path to belonging is paved with brokenness, and sealed with forgiveness. We don’t fall into trust through our perfect performance or constant alignment. We get there when we let mercy, justice and humility reign. We get there, when love wins.