I can look back over thirteen years and 500+ blog entries and find common themes, images, and phrasings. Events mentioned cover the most mundane of casual observations to global tragedies. These last days of riot and protest in the United States, the systemic racism of so many structures, the blatant racism infecting many police forces, the deaths, the deaths, the deaths of so many people of colour at the hands, guns, and knees, of people who are sworn to protect others… This is calling me to write a story I’ve not ever mentioned here. I have spoken of it, but never asked that it rest upon the page so others might read it.
I have watched the videos and been sick and keep wondering, digging down…When I watch the white cop kneeling on the neck of George Floyd; when I hear him gasping I can’t breathe… What is it inside of me that is so repelled? Why am I so incredibly repulsed? That I am…well, I count that as a good thing…but it seems important to me to understand why.
In part, I have come to this— Because I am still alive…when others are not.
I am alive…and my respect for that gift, my utter wonder and respect for that gift that has allowed all else to unfold in my life so that I am able to feel what I feel right now…calls me to be repulsed when the use of that honour, being alive, is weighed upon the neck of another to deny them their own wonder, dimension, and grandeur.
Let me add to this…lest that be read as “…only words…” What I call gift is all that has brought me to where I stand…all that it has meant for me to be alive. It is the sweep of name-calling and bullying—based on my physical looks and my brains, my personality, the way I dress… . It includes the scars from when I was pushed into a gravel pit and the experience of walking into a room and feeling it tip to the other side as those who gather move away, leaving me to sit alone. It includes realizing gifts and abilities and putting them to use; finding friends; and tiring of the need to justify holding the crazy contradiction that terrible things happen and beautiful things and that in the end, it’s worth it. It has meant making mistakes and listening to violence in words and witnessing violence in action; it has meant creating beauty, teaching, and working to provide spaces where what is real and what is true are welcome. It has meant accepting myself and my story. It has meant embracing the difficult honour of love. All of this…all of this and more has brought me to here and to now.
To deny someone else the grace of standing in their fullness and dignity is putting parameters around what it means and who gets to have breath and being and doing that is not a right bestowed—it is stolen, appropriated, abused. I work to recognize those moments when I am the one who denies the fullness and dignity of another. Trying to do that lets me look in the mirror and into the eyes of those I meet. I ask over and again to not forget the sources of my empathy; do not let me forget what it feels like to shake and to shrivel inside and do not let me forget what it feels like to flourish. The strength of both, bonded together, plants my feet beside my brothers and sisters who fight to breathe.
That I am writing this on the feast of Pentecost does not escape me. The Spirit, Ruah, breath of God, inspiration…she came this day and she raised the roof.