Monday, July 18, 2016

Please. Just Listen.

There have been so many words written across screens this past week and a half. Blogs. Facebook. News outlets. I've read so many of them. Cried. Sighed. Clenched fists. So many times I've grabbed a pen, or sat in front of my computer and felt the urgency to add my voice but it has seemed like too much. Too much noise. Too much hurt. Too much misunderstanding.

What I mostly wanted to say was, "Please. Just Listen." And though I haven't said it, I have done it. I have listened to stories like Brian Crook's experience entitled "What it's like to be black in Naperville, America." And police officer Chelsea Whitaker's post on "Shopping While Black w/a Badge." I've cried re-reading the 2014 article "Black Moms Tell White Moms About the Race Talk" - especially the last story of the 12-year old son who reminds me so much of my own.

I've remembered ugly criticism directed at my child as young as two years old because of the color of his skin. I've lain awake to the awful words of a horrifically racist joke told to us by a Chilean pastor who heard it from a church in the deep south of the United States. My blood has run cold upon recently learning it was a joke based in unfathomable past truth in our country. I've hurt over my eleven-year old son being called the N-word by someone he considered a friend.

I have wanted to say, "Please. Just Listen." Racism is still real. The Bible tells us to "weep with those who weep." Black lives do matter. Yes, all lives matter - but right now maybe the rest of us are finally understanding that black lives are hurting and have been for quite some time. If we are listening. And many are. Such as our pastor in Michigan in his courageous and compassionate July 10 message entitled "A Biblical Perspective on Current Events." Or those who have written thoughtful posts entitled "Spanning the racial divide with authentic love" and "Valuing the lives of all mankind."

Many people are listening. Many people are caring.

I try to remember this when it is easy to become super-sensitive to what others say - or don't say - on social media. When one Facebook friend is so quick to link an article implying guilt about someone who has lost his life, as if the end does justify the means. Or another flippantly tosses a loaded one-liner amidst pictures of an otherwise unaffected life. When one clicks to "like" article after article focused on one view of the issue without evidence of concern for the realities that affect my children and family. When a quote like this one seems to fall on deaf ears: "If we are teaching respect and honor for all people crafted by God's hands, then our children will become protectors and advocates for all people, especially those who are unfairly found victims of a broken, fallen world." (Sally Clarkson)

"Please. Just Listen." I have read the heartfelt words of police officer Merri McGregor. I have worried for our friends who are good, honest policemen. For their families and children, and the danger they now face because of actions not their own. I pray for these friends in uniform. I pray for the families of those whose loved ones have died tragically while carrying out their sworn duties and in defense of strangers. My heart breaks with the words of Officer Jackson who faced criticism in and out of uniform yet loved his city and was senselessly killed while serving it. Recently I prayed for a lifelong family friend at the request of his daughter, as he oversaw a rally in his town. Later I was so blessed by her words in response to the many who prayed:
Thank you for joining me in prayer for our friends, former classmates, former classmates children, public servants, and family! Please spread love to those who are different than you! Spread love to people you don't understand. We all have different eyes... I was raised surrounded by the love of policemen- like family. I have many people in my life who were raised differently. Take a minute to try to understand what it is like to live in someone else's shoes. I want people who are frightened to be able to speak about their fears- when I was young my dad told me about his black friend that told him what it was like to walk around a store and be followed, assumed to be a thief. That is a terrible life to live! At the same time I have my own desires. I'd like to see my dad make retirement as one of the best men on this planet. He retires Dec. 6. Thanks for praying him through another day!
If only we did all take a minute to understand what it is like to live in someone else's shoes, what a difference that might make. I thought of this again when I had reason this week to apologize to a Christlike friend. She graciously forgave me and said, "I'm not easily offended. When someone says something I might take the wrong way, I usually stop and think that he or she has probably had a bad day or something else is going on in their life."

There have been a lot of bad days lately. And a lot has been going on in our nation's life. How might things change if we responded as she did? I believe there is hope for change. "Please. Just Listen."

"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: 
Everyone should be quick to listen, 
slow to speak and slow to become angry ..." 
James 1:19