I Believe in the Possibility of Change

I simply can't build my hopes on a foundation of confusion, misery and death... I think... peace and tranquillity will return again. Anne FrankI don’t know what I am doing. Every day, I feel more overwhelmed. It’s as if I’m always swimming against the current. I always feel 10 steps behind. And yet, in light of the brokenness of things it seems wrong to complain. So I haven’t been able to say much lately.

Most days I would rather just hole up in my house and stare at my children – to hunker down in the minutia of daily life and forget that there is a world beyond the end of my nose. It would be a simpler life if I could forget there was so much pain, misunderstanding, inequality, and fear – but for whatever reason the powers that made me also made it impossible for me to turn away, to not recognize the responsibility that comes with so much privilege.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wealthy, I’ve had a lot go wrong in my life, I have hurt and I have been hurt, I have suffered, I have loved, I have lost, I have run away, and run away, and run away and when I became someone’s mother and then another person’s mother, and then again I gave up the right to run away. I became the mother of the world. That feels like a very grandiose statement. I feel silly saying that out loud because well – it’s a very grandiose statement. Yet, from the moment I brought my first child home from the hospital that is how I felt. Connected. To every living person on this earth. Deeply privileged at getting to raise my babies in relative safety and with so much opportunity. I feel like an asshole when I complain about being overwhelmed, and hurt, and sad. It hardly feels as if I have the right to feel those things. But I remind myself that I have to feel my emotions just like everyone else if it’s going to be possible for me to keep going.

I went to a public discussion on race in our community yesterday and the rules were stated at the beginning of the conversation. Don’t monopolize, let others share. Speak from personal experience not in broad brush strokes. Lean into the uncomfortable moments and keep going. Don’t try to offend but if you say something that offends someone educate them regarding what in your experience has led you to have those feelings. Listen. Talk about the world from your experience individually – make I statements – “I feel, I have seen, I have experienced.”

I see pain. I feel frustrated. My experience shows that many people would rather not acknowledge the pain and frustrations that exist in minority communities in America. Why? Because then they would have to take some individual responsibility and that makes them comfortable. From my perspective, in my experience. I can understand because it’s hard and sometimes scary to question my worldview, to wonder what I could be doing better, to consider that changing my ideas could change the experience of others – but I can’t accept doing nothing or worse blaming, pointing fingers, and wiping my hands of the idea that I have responsibility for “those” people over there. We all have a responsibility to one another. We have to find a way to share the world. I am not very good at sticking to “I” statements. I’m sorry. I’m working on it.

“…morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

I want to be safe. I want my children to grow-up having access to the world and all of its possibilities. I want the same for black and brown children, and LGBTQ children, and Muslim children, Jewish children, Christian children, and every other man, woman, and child on this planet. I want there to be hope enough in the world for people to stop handing their lives over to heroin. I want people with disabilities and mental illness to have a seat at the table and access to a fully realized existence. I want to sit across from every white person in American and have them say “I know things have been broken. I know people are hurting. I want to be a part of the solution. I want to listen.” I want a lot of things.

It is impossible for me to understand the fear and hopelessness that drives a person to kill. But what occurs to me is the sameness that exists in the basic human experience of fear, pain, hopelessness, and a desperate need to hold on to something. White people kill, black people kill, almost all religions have killed for their right to believe – to decide you have to take another person’s life in order to express your pain must be such a terrifying desperation. It’s wrong. It’s wrong. It’s wrong – for anyone to feel that desperate and afraid. It’s wrong for a white cop to feel so fearful and disconnected from the humanity of his black community members that he feels his only course of action is to shoot first. It’s wrong for a black man to feel so separate, marginalized, unheard, and disregarded that he feels his only course of action is to shoot. It’s wrong. There has to be a better way.

I know there is a better way. It’s really hard, scary, and uncomfortable. It is really slow. We have to talk to each other. One by one we will realize where we have power to influence change. One by one we can come to understand the experiences of others whose circumstances are different than our own. One by one, we can drown the monsters of fear, hate, and otherness. I want to help. I want to be part of the solution. I want to get comfortable being uncomfortable and I want to keep at it for as long as it takes. It’s OUR world, OUR country. All of us.

“I note the obvious differences
between each sort and type,
but we are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.”

Maya Angelou

It’s true that my nature is a bit pollyanna, a lot filled with dreams and hopes of a better future. It’s not that I don’t recognize the realities or the bad actors of the past and present it’s just that I believe in the possibility of change. Things often get worse before they get better. There are lots of reasons not to believe, a lot of reasons to be cynical, mistrusting, and angry. I choose not to be. It’s not my nature. I’ve probably missed a nuance, said something that will offend someone, overstated or understated or made a mistake in this piece. On this road to change as in all other change there will be missteps and mistakes. Educate me and let’s keep trying to move forward. There’s a lot of work to be done.

“A religious man is a person who holds God and man in one thought at one time, at all times, who suffers harm done to others, whose greatest passion is compassion, whose greatest strength is love and defiance of despair.” Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

I could keep going forever but I won’t right now. Just know that I am holding space for you in my heart. No matter who you are. Whether you want me to or not. Even if you think I’m crazy, wrong, or stupid. And if I don’t agree with you or share your views I am trying to understand you. I am trying to figure out exactly the right thing to say or do to help bring us together.

Much love,

Erin

2 Comments


  1. I’ve posted a short video with Maya Angelou on my FB page (from Oprah Winfrey’s Masterclass series)…think you might enjoy watching and listening to it…her voice seems to exude comfort!

    Reply

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