Us and Them?
I was in the checkout line this week behind a Hispanic family; a mom and three children. Two of the kids were hanging with mom while one was at a bargain bin admiring a bracelet with glass beads. The mother finished checking out, gathered her things and headed for the door. The problem is she forgot a child, the one admiring the bracelet. The cashier caught my eye and said; “You can come up now.” I smiled, gesturing to the girl and quipped; “I don’t think she’s ready.” “Oh. They do that all the time! Forget their children and leave the store. Come on up.” I wasn’t going to push the girl out of the way and so asked her; “Where’s your mom? Did she just go out the doors?” The little one stared at me and I’m not sure she understood what I was saying or was intimidated by a stranger. She moved and I kept my eye on the door while the cashier scanned my items. She continued to insult the mom and lumped all Hispanics together with condescending phrases; “They all do that, don’t care about their children. When I was growing up my mother would’ve never left me. She always knew where we were but they don’t care.” I finished checking out, retrieved my bag and headed out the door. I was annoyed and concerned.
When I got outside I scanned the parking lot for the mom and sure enough, she realized her child was missing and was heading back to the store. My worry dissipated. My annoyance at the cashier persists now as I am writing about it. I don’t understand how a person can casually dismiss an entire race of people. This child with the bracelet, this mom with her hands full, didn’t need judgment. They needed understanding instead of insults, someone to help the mom not forget her most precious cargo. Moms of all races have their hands full. Moms forget. Moms of all nationalities are burdened with remembering all kinds of things and if they are new to the United States of America there’s more she and her family has to deal with in a nation where a growing section of the community is hostile to them.
Instead of a fist offer a hand. Instead of a look of contempt offer empathy. Instead of judgment offer humanity.
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Black and White –
Last night I had the privilege to be the representative of our company as a partner with our local Housing Authority at their annual Family Night. It was fun, festive and hot! There was a balloon obstacle course, face painting, lots to eat, door prizes and giveaways. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.
My booth was to inform families, moms, caregivers and especially dads how important it is for children to develop a love of reading. We had free books, zip line book bags, and special gifts for a lucky few. As I met countless people and watched the afternoon turn into evening it was nice to see people of all shades and colors coming together. It was also great to see community organizations, churches, other agencies give of themselves to a common cause.
There is much division in our families, neighborhoods, communities, nation, and world. Everyone sees things as black and white, one side or the other, friend or enemy and it seems there is no common cause to gather around. I wish I knew what that cause could be or how to make people drop their raised fists and shake one another’s hand. The world isn’t black and white. It never has been but this doesn’t mean we can’t come together if we have the eyes to see.
In Memory of –
This is a strange holiday for me. It’s not strange in the sense that I don’t understand it or think it necessary but strange because I did not serve in the armed services nor lost a loved one while in military service. I don’t know what it’s like to charge up a hill with my unit, share foxholes with people who I depend on for my life, find the courage to carry out orders that put my life and others in danger and know not everyone is coming back from the mission. I don’t know what it is to get a knock on my door, a phone call, by servicemen or women to inform me a loved is not returning home. I can’t imagine the pain, heartache, loss, or pride that comes with Memorial Day.
I once served on a staff with a war veteran and we liked to talk politics, history, and war. He had seen action in the military while I sat in the safety of a university classroom. We’d have conversations about the justifications of war. I’d voice my opinion that Christians should follow Jesus’ example and be pacifists, opposed to all violence and then he’d tell me when and why I was wrong. I didn’t agree with everything he said about the military, nation-building, and protection but I was also humbled and silent as he spoke. I understood that he had served, put his life on the line for us to disagree and still be friends, still call ourselves by the same name; Americans.
“The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Blessings & Thank you,
Project: Never Ending –
Today my wife and I hung the screen doors on our “never-ending project” we also call the porch. The doors made it look more completed and the end is in sight! However, we’ve said that before and then life gets in the way. Too many things to mention are more important than the project and we’ve set it aside several times to go and help others or have accepted the help of others during the past couple of years. When we finished hanging them we stepped back to the driveway and admired our work. Not perfect but not bad.
Wisdom teaches us that our lives may be never-ending projects but not in the same way as the porch. Those looking for truth accept that we will never stop learning, growing, if wisdom is what we seek. There will be breaks in between. Times when we need to accept our place on the path and rest. Other seasons where we focus our energies elsewhere by helping our family, neighbors, community, nation, and the world.
Finding balance is the key to grow, not at the expense of others, but with them.
What You Hear, What You See –
The new debate that is dividing the nation is no longer pro-Trump or Never Trump, democrat or republican, progressive or conservative, not even black and blue dress or white and gold dress. The division now is whether you hear; “Laurel” or “Yanny” when you play the following audio clip; (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiXQl7grPQ). The numbers are almost even, 53% to 47%.
As I listened to the audio file and the scientific reason behind what and why we hear a certain word I also began reflecting on our brains and how they interpret information. There’s a quote that reads; “You’re unique just like everyone else.” It’s funny but also true. Not one person on this planet has lived the same life. We are all on this path called life but in different, never walked on before places.
I read an article last week about the “version” of ourselves we want others to see and how its impossible to successfully project this image to another. The problem is each person has experienced a myriad of choices, events, experiences, that have shaped who they are and how they see people. In other words, people see us mostly because of who they are not who we try to be. As many people as we know there are this many “versions” of ourselves.
The question isn’t “Laurel or Yanny?” but why do we spend so much time trying to be someone other than ourselves?
I think the world stinks! Somedays. Other days its okay and on a rare occasion I see the best in humanity and what we’re capable of and it makes the day brighter.
Earlier this week a man was contemplating ending his life. It’s not an easy decision to make but he had decided at least to walk to the bridge and then choose his next step. People say that those who threaten don’t want to commit suicide they want attention. It’s only those who choose to do it secretly, commit the act in privacy who are serious. This is not true. When someone decides to take their own life they may choose to do it in any number of ways, telling or not telling any number of people. This is why all threats of suicide should be taken seriously.
Back to the man on the bridge, contemplating his existence, his purpose in life and whether both were at an end. As he wrestled with one of life’s ultimate decisions police and crisis personnel tried to persuade him not to do it. Then, semi-truckers began to pull under the bridge and stop! They were doing their best to fill up enough space under the bridge that the man couldn’t end his life. They had loads to deliver, jobs to do, families to feed and paychecks to earn but they put their livelihoods aside to try to convince this man that people cared. Read story: (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/inspired-life/wp/2018/04/24/a-man-nearly-jumped-off-an-overpass-13-truckers-made-a-safety-net/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.006906aecec9)
Life is hard, the world is a mess, our nation is falling apart. Each of us can do something to show someone who feels unloved how much we care, clean up our part of the planet, heal our community and be the difference between life and death.
Last night I watched the “The Post” starring Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. The film is described as; “thrilling, based on a true story. Determined to uphold the nation’s civil liberties, Katharine Graham (Streep), publisher of The Washington Post, and hard-nosed editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) join forces to expose a decades-long cover-up. But the two must risk their careers –– and their freedom –– to bring truth to light in this powerful film (https://www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-post).” It was an interesting movie dealing with an historic and chaotic time in this nation that I am too young to remember. I did find myself cheering Streep’s and Hank’s characters on as they took a case of the freedom of the press all the way to the Supreme Court. I won’t spoil the ending but it was a good watch and worth anyone’s time who is interested in an event that would directly impact how the press covered the Watergate break-in (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watergate_scandal) and news moving forward to the present.
What I’ve wrestled with since watching the movie is; “News exists in a vacuüm. The lives of the reporters, editors, and publishers are swayed by their political leanings, experiences, preferences, and worldviews.” We as the readers face the same limitation in our consumption of news. There are so many places to receive our news today that we can stay perpetually stuck in a bubble where only our viewpoints are legitimized. When this happens we cease being open to new ideas or our current ones being scrutinized and challenged. We become entombed, trapped by our own beliefs and limited knowledge. The truth isn’t important anymore only our belief of what is true.
Yesterday, almost one million students across the United States of America, walked out en masse to protest school shooting and the inability of adults to agree upon how to make our schools safer.
There were two types of protests that were happening. One was #walkout which encouraged students to leave their school classrooms and #walkup which encouraged these young adults to find someone who seemed to exist “on the edges” and talk with them eat lunch and begin a conversation that hopefully would develop into a relationship. I supported the #walkout and the #walkup protests and thought both had merit and could change lives. Neither was a perfect way of protesting but each one was worth doing.
However, I noticed that many folks were for one or the other. Not many looked for balance in the two approaches. Students were either labeled #walkup or #walkout. It seemed not much conversation was happening between the quickly diverging groups. This made me sad. The reason the students were protesting is that adults can’t talk to one another, find a compromise, work together on behalf of our nation’s youngest and brightest. Now, it was happening again.
I am sick of litmus tests that divide us as a nation, community, and families. I am tired of people not being able to listen to one another even if we do not agree with the other. There is almost always a middle way where we remember we’re all human, deserving of respect and kindness instead of disdain and meanness. Perhaps one day we will realize we have more in common than what we allow to tear us apart.
What are We? –
This morning I walked into a sanctuary, on this 4th of July weekend, with this shirt staring me in the face. On the back of it was written the Declaration of Independence (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Declaration_of_Independence). I found it odd to be wearing this shirt in church but understand that being a Christian and an American go hand in hand for a large number of people. I often wonder which one folks would choose if the choice was forced upon them.
I focused my attention on the words being sung, the scripture being read, the prayers being recited. The final hymn we sang was one I had never heard before but the lyrics moved my spirit. It was entitled; “Lord of all nations, Grant me Grace.”
1 Lord of all nations, grant me grace To love all men of every race And in each fellow-man to see My brother, loved, redeemed by thee.
2 Break down the wall that would divide Thy children, Lord, on every side. Let me seek my neighbor’s good In bonds of Christian brotherhood.
3 Forgive me, Lord, where I have erred By loveless act and thoughtless word. Make me to see the wrong I do Will crucify my Lord anew.
4 Give me thy courage, Lord, to speak Whenever strong oppress the weak. Should I myself the victim be, Help me forgive, remembering thee.
As we lifted up this song my attention was once again drawn to the man wearing the Declaration of Independence shirt. It seems our country is run by two things; hate for those who disagree with us and fear of those different from us.
The song asks the “Lord of all nations” to allow us a heart big enough to love all people, to see them as our brothers and sisters. At a time where many are wanting walls built this song asks God to break down the wall that would force God’s children to choose sides. It challenges us to reach out to our neighbor regardless of race, color, creed or political preference. If we fail to do this we are to ask forgiveness for acts and words that do not espouse “God’s love.” We are also challenged to have courage when we are oppressed or when we find ourselves on the side of the oppressors, asking forgiveness and speaking God’s truth to power.
I wonder how many would wear a shirt with the words to this hymn imprinted on them as the man wore his shirt today. I also reflected on our nation, its claimed Christian heritage, and how we have lost our way.
Brian Loging (Twitter)