“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”
— John Lennon, lyrics to Imagine
I’ve been quieter here, in this online space, than usual. Maybe you’ve noticed. Maybe not.
There are a couple of reasons for my lack of writing. The first one is, of course, summer. Kids home from school combined with afternoons at the pool and trips up to Wisconsin and playdates and baseball games and about a million other things that I would rather do than sit down to write make for very little actual writing. Go figure.
But the other reason – the bigger, more insidious reason – I haven’t been writing as much as usual isn’t quite as obvious. In fact, I denied it as a factor for a while. But it’s there and it’s getting harder to ignore.
For the past few weeks, I have struggled to express my feelings about some of the really horrible things going on in the world. The AME church shooting in Charleston. The massacre in Tunisia. Church burnings.
What can I possibly say, I’ve thought to myself. What do I know? Who will listen to little old me?
The news kept coming. More church burnings. At least 6 in 10 days. A general sense of animosity and bitterness has pervaded the Internet. And even while I, and many others, celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision last Friday, there is an awareness that many people continue to carry “glaciers of grief and pain,” as my UU friend Heather Christensen calls it, that are inconceivable to me, a burden that is not immediately lifted because the Supreme Court says “it is so ordered.” There is still hard work to be done. There are good fights that we still need to fight.
But how? How do I talk about these things without inadvertently offending someone? How do I step into these thick and muddy waters when I don’t have answers, only questions? How do I dig deep into the questions when some days if feels like I’m struggling to keep my head above water in my own little (and, admittedly, relatively easy) life?
I don’t know. I’ve got lots of questions, but not many answers.
So instead of writing deep and writing hard, I’ve stepped away from writing a bit. Whereas I used to jump into the questions and the sticky issues, using the process of writing as a means of finding – or, at least, getting closer to – some of the answers, I’ve become consumed and spent up with the goings-on my own life and haven’t been all that eager to take a closer, deeper, harder look at the struggles of others.
I’ve taken the easy way.
But if there is one thing that I believe with all my heart, if there is one answer that I do know, it is that we belong to each other. We are all in this together. All of us. There is no other, there is only us. Black or white, gay or straight, conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat, American or Middle Eastern or European. We are all in this together. As Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”
And if we are all walking each other home, why not help each other through the deep and muddy waters we are sure to encounter on the journey? Why not talk to each other, even about the hard stuff, especially about the hard stuff? Why not ask the questions, even if we don’t have any answers, especially if we don’t have any answers?
A few weeks ago, I posted this on my Facebook page:
“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” — Edward Everett Hale
Since I first heard the news of the Charleston church shooting, I have struggled to make sense of it all. I’ve struggled to come up with words to express the compassion, empathy, sadness, anger, and confusion that I feel. I have also worried that if I do say something, it might come out wrong and do more harm than good. I have thought, more than once, what difference does anything that I say make? I’m just little ol’ me, with this tiny little blog, so why bother?
But I am realizing that silence — by white people, gun control advocates, legislators, etc. — has, in and of itself, been hurtful to many in the black community. Silence is not helping. Sometimes the need to speak up is so great that it doesn’t matter whether we get the words exactly right, as long as we speak with love, and it doesn’t matter if only one person hears the quiet words that we say.
And so, here I am, in my tiny corner of this online world, speaking from my heart…THIS HAS TO STOP. This hatred has to stop. The discrimination and judgment and prejudice has to stop. We are all brothers and sisters in this human family. EMPATHY & COMPASSION & LOVE FOR ALL HUMANITY – not just for ourselves, families, friends, and communities, not just love for people “like us” – are the only answers. We need to have hard conversations and take a good look at the ways that we might (knowingly or unknowingly) be hindering the advancement of peace. We need to see past the differences, and search for the similarities because, believe me, we are far all more alike than we are different.
My heart breaks for the black community in general, and for this Charleston church community specifically. Hearts are broken all over the country. Maybe we can use the cracks and the brokenness to let the light in?
All of these this is as true today as it was when I wrote it. I am still only one. And a quiet, small one at that. I still do not have a huge platform. Or even a medium platform, for that matter. And writing about the hard things is still risky. It always will be.
How do we let the light in if we don’t point out the cracks? How do we move toward healing if we first don’t acknowledge the brokenness? How do we find answers if we don’t even ask them?
I hadn’t planned to write this post. There are drafts of other posts resting in my computer – posts I might finish and publish at some point. But as I heard news story after news story about churches burning all across the South – places that, regardless of your faith or opinion of religion in general, can only be considered sacred and holy; as I read status updates about the latent, lingering, and very real pain that many LGBT people in this country continue to face despite the huge step forward last Friday; as I read Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd, two books that examine at what it meant and still means to be black in this country, those drafted posts didn’t feel appropriate. Not now. Not today. Not until I stopped being silent, albeit in my own small and quiet way.
Today seems like a day to acknowledge the pain. A day to say all of the things that I have left unsaid in the past few weeks. To dig deep into the questions for a while. And to remind myself of the only answers I have ever known to be true. Only love can drive out hate. We are ALL in this together. And, by God, we’ve got to take care of each other.
As simplistic as that might sound, it seems like as good a place to start as any. Maybe I’m a dreamer, a wisher, an idealist. But you know what?
I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge with Angie McMonigal Photography. The premise is simple: Angie sends me a couple of photos and I write a blog post based on one of the photos. It is always fascinating to see what words her images bring out of me. Not only have Angie’s photos served as inspiration for several blog posts over the past three years, but they have also inspired certain chapters in Open Boxes and I am grateful that her photos will also be used as creative inspiration for various online writing & creativity workshops.