I’ve read at least a dozen blog posts today on the chaos taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. It seems everyone who has the ability to put their thoughts into written words has attempted to make sense of the senseless.
I sit in our church on a Sunday morning and I look around at the diversity of our church body and I smile. God smiles. It is His Church. We are ALL His children. ALL created in His image. The same diverse crowd that I worship with come to my home. All are welcome in my home. We eat together. We pray together. We laugh together. We do life together.
Why is “together” still hard for so many?
Why does America, land of the free, home of the brave, still have so much ground to cover when it comes to freedom and bravery?
Watching the events unfold in Ferguson and across our nation, listening to our President speak, I could feel it. The racial divide in America just grew wider. I hurt.
I have two teenage sons. The images of tears rolling down the cheeks of Lesley McSpadden physically pain me. My own mother died before her mother. The natural order of the universe is disturbed when a parent buries their child.
My 19-year-old daughter was followed around Walmart, across town, and onto her college campus by a man who ten days later allegedly kidnapped and murdered a girl she graduated with from high school; a girl that grew up in our neighborhood. I’ve imagined the pain of losing my child.
As a little girl in the 1970’s, living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I imagined I would marry a black man. I wanted mulatto babies. In my little girl mind mulatto babies had the power to erase the racial divide. Oh how I wish it were that simple.
My teenage sons are white. Nobody currently living in my house knows what it is like to be a young black male in this country. I do however know what it was like to be a 13-year-old white girl living in a trailer park in the south. I know the indignation that comes when a neighbor with three children of his own thinks the 8th grader across the street must be slutty and willing to sleep with him because, well, she lives in a trailer park. That man’s hands never actually touched me. My indignation lit a fire in me that led to screaming and yelling and choice words shared between me and his wife. For the two years we were neighbors, every time that man even looked my direction, I screamed at him. I would suspect that Michael Brown’s indignation toward Darren Wilson was not so different.
Speaking of officer Wilson, I also hurt for him and his family. You see… my grandfather, the man I loved most in the whole world before my husband, was a police officer. He was kind and compassionate and he always gave everyone the benefit of the doubt. That man could find good in a skunk. When I was 10 or 11 years old, he gave the benefit of the doubt to the wrong person. Doing so led to him being kidnapped, shot, and left for dead at a construction site. The guy he trusted shot him with his own service pistol and stole both the gun and his police cruiser. That person just happened to be a young black male. I know he was a young black male because I saw the pictures, not because my grandfather described him that way. In fact, as I sat next to my grandfather in the weeks it took for him to recover, every word he spoke towards his attacker was filled with compassion. He questioned what the boy’s upbringing had been and what circumstances led to him making such desperate choices that fateful day. He questioned what he could have done to help the boy make different choices. My grandfather did not see the boy as a young black man. He saw him as a child of God.
When my grandfather’s ordeal happened, I was still a little girl with hopes of marrying a black man. And still, I sat on the side of his bed and begged him to “Be careful..” I begged him not to trust. My pleas to my grandfather begged the question, “Should a police officer see young black men any differently than the trailer park neighbor saw a 13-year-old white girl?”
I no longer believe that mixed race children have the power to erase the racial divide. Heck, I no longer believe any one person or group of people has that power. What I do believe is that each and every person on this planet was created in the image of God. My God is a flippin’ rainbow! He shows NO FAVORITISM! It’s us humans who’ve messed everything up. It’s us who put people into little boxes with little expectations and say, “See. I told you so.” when they meet those little expectations. Michael Brown had little expectations when he approached officer Wilson’s police car. Officer Wilson had little expectations when he interacted with Michael Brown. The people who witnessed the whole mess had little expectations of everyone involved and in the end everyone was left saying, “See. I told you so.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of little expectations and “I told you so”s. While I’m under no false pretenses about my ability to change the whole world, I do believe each and every one of us has the power to do something. I have to believe that. I have to believe that when I sit in church on a Sunday morning and experience not only the presence of God, but his pleasure in the diversity of His Church; that I’m witnessing the transformation of little expectations into big expectations. I have to believe that when I have the opportunity to tell a young black male (that I dearly love) that one bad choice does not define him, that I’m planting seeds of big expectations. I have to believe that when I see a 17-year-old black boy and believe that he has the exact measure of potential in him as my own 17-year-old boy, that I’m planting seeds of big expectations. I have to believe that when I thank a police officer for his service in front of a group of young people, that I’m changing expectations. I have to believe that this one big set-back in Ferguson, Missouri does not define America.
We still have so much ground to cover.
I challenge you today to let go of the “little expectations” you have for someone in your path. See that person as a child of God. See them as your brother or sister. Love your neighbor.
Mark 12:30-31 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. … LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. There is no other command greater than these.”