Addiction, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

Peaceful Protest: Part 2 (Aka “The little red dress”)

About that dress…that red and pink dress I mentioned I was wearing while trying to remain low-profile as an observer at a protest last weekend…

I love that dress. I bought it at a second hand store to take with me on my trip to Paris a few months ago. It’s colorful and sassy and very French. Also, impossible to miss. I stood on the sidewalk, against the fenced parking lot as the protesters stood and began to make their way to another part of town. Another place to sit and repeat their message. The crowd consisted mostly of African Americans who, as I explained in my last blog, are “tired” and want the city to know it. It was a somber processional and I was reflecting on what I had just witnessed, when I realized someone was talking to me. An African American woman, about 20 years younger than me was passing by. And in the most unlikely of situations she says with a chipper tone and a smile, “Cute Dress!”. I replied in kind, “Thanks!”.

For several days I thought about the conclusion of this historic event. I knew it meant something but I wasn’t’ sure what. I even implored an explanation from my husband. His answer was good, but it wasn’t my answer. It took me a few days of reflecting and revisiting to figure out what that interaction meant to me. It’s a Recovery Principle that came to my mind: “Look for the similarities, not the differences.”

What does that mean exactly? It means that even in the middle of a protest, where emotions are high and differences are highlighted and on display, we can find a common ground. It means two girls can come together because of something as simple as Fashion Appreciation. In a world where uniqueness and doing things that set us apart in order to get attention, make money or rebel seems to rule, there is still a deeper desire for us to relate to one another. To find ways we are the same. As hard as we work to be different, our souls long to be connected and included.

It reminded me of a analogy outlined in the big book of AA. It’s a story about a great ocean liner sinking and how the passengers, “from steerage to Captain’s table”, rejoiced together upon being rescued. The author talks about how, within the Fellowship of AA, there is great diversity in regard to religion, race, occupation, and social, economical and political status. That they are a people who “normally would not mix” were it not for a common peril. And most importantly, a common solution.

This is the root of why I write. First and foremost, I try to remind us that, as fellow life-travelers, we also have a common Solution. Remember my mantra from the first 3 of the 12 Steps? “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him.” Also, I hope to aid us in seeing where we are the same rather than feeling like we are the “only one”. I believe, that at our core of cores, we are more alike than we are different. Regardless of the diversities mentioned above, we all have felt the pangs and haunting of betrayal, hurt, unforgiveness, shame, and failure. We all long for belonging, acceptance, unconditional love, tolerance, kindness, patience, grace and understanding.

We are all doing the best we can at any given time. It’s time to be gracious with ourselves and others. We are all suffering from the common malady of being broken humans in a broken world. It’s time to show love and tolerance to people who don’t think exactly like we do. There are people all around us who are currently in grave and unfathomable pain. It’s time to assume that anyone you meet, especially those who are behaving poorly or reacting rudely, could be in such a place. As Oswald Chambers puts it, “there is always one fact more in every man’s case that, if you knew it, you would suspend judgment.”

It’s time to stop focusing on differences and the the things that keep us separate, and begin to open ourselves up the possibility that we are actually more alike than we ever imagined. And if it needs to start with acknowledging a little red dress at a protest, so be it.

Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, Relationships

Peaceful protest:It’s time to fight

A few months back I bought tickets for my husband and i to see a comedian in St. Louis this weekend. How could we have known that it would fall the day after a white police officer in that area was acquitted for shooting an African American teenager several years back? We ate a leisurely, lovely dinner at a suspiciously un-crowded restaurant across from the theatre. We knew there had been some rioting the day before and that a couple large concerts were cancelled, but it didn’t occur to us until after we ate to check in about the status of our event. The status? Cancelled. We had booked a hotel room and everything. Pretty disappointed, we decided to walk down the street and check out the area. Less than a block away, on the Delmar Loop, we could see we might be in for something we didn’t anticipate. Something historic and confusing and to be honest, a little intimidating.

We stood on the corner observing a fairly peaceful but emotional protest. At that time, there was chanting and occasional yelling or crying from the people on megaphones, standing in the middle of the intersection. A man to my right was standing on top of his car, in stopped traffic, eating his dinner from a styrofoam container, watching. We watched too. And I cannot fail to mention that I felt like a target for some sort of negative attention as I gawked in my red, hot-pink and white sundress and high heels. It was obvious that my reasons for being there were very different from theirs and I felt a tinge of embarrassment. Like I wasn’t taking this serious enough.

After a few minutes, an African American man walking past us started to engage us in conversation. I happened to be videoing with my phone at the time (along with hundreds of others in the crowd) and caught his words. I can’t stop thinking about them. He said, “They have to fight. They’re tired here.”

Does anybody else know how hard it is to fight when you are tired? I don’t pretend to have ever known anything like racial discrimination. Let’s make that clear up front. And I don’t mean to minimize the kind of “tired” that comes as result of generations of “fighting”. But for the purpose of personal reflection that we can all identify with, let’s just talk about that statement on another level for a few minutes.

This man’s words keep coming to my mind, days later, because I have to confess, I am “tired”. I have been tired for about 6 years. That’s when life as I knew it was flipped inside out, wadded up and smashed into smithereens. It didn’t happen over night, but it sure felt like it. I am sure you have had those defining moments in your life too. And unfortunately, the effects of it feel like a movie that never ends. Or at least one whose plot never quite resolves. In about a months time we changed jobs, friend groups and homes. Throughout this time, we battled the family disease of addiction. And just when I felt like I might be gaining some traction in the new-normal life, the disease of Leukemia descended on us as well. That just took the tired to a whole new level. Emotional and physical exhaustion have been threatening to over-take me for years.

But like the dude on the street points out, when you are tired is when it is most important to fight. And he would be correct. I have never been more tired, and I also have never fought harder to not be swallowed up by that tiredness. I have worked out my emotions with counselors and confidants. I have prayed and repented and forgiven and made amends. I have been humbled by my loss of status and my loss of hair. I have repaired some old friendships and built dozens of new ones. I have had to learn how to truly live and let live and let go and let God. I have had to re-learn things I always thought I believed because I realized my arrogant and self-righteous attitude had been keeping me from the real truth for decades. Fighting to un-learn what I thought I knew has been one of the hardest parts of the battle to date.

If you happen to be tired too, this is when it is most crucial that you engage in the fight. At times, it may look like a peaceful sit-in, but more than likely, it will occasionally require a violent removal of all you once thought you knew about life and love and God. But it will be worth it. Fight for, or against, whatever is necessary so that you can emerge from the battle rested and restored.