Remember how Ross would give the most depressing hi’s?
That’s how I’ve felt over the last week. Here’s what happened.
I’m in the middle of reading four non-fiction books. Two of them are set at the founding of our nation – Washington: A life and Alexander Hamilton – and two of them are set during the Civil Rights era – Parting the Waters : America in the King Years 1954-63 and His Truth Is Marching On: John Lewis and the Power of Hope.
As I look around at what’s happening in our country right now, I’ve been reminded of the reality that since our nation’s founding, people of color have had to fight to be treated as equals. Most of the founding fathers owned slaves, and while they wrote these beautiful words about how all men should be created equal, that was hardly the case then, and it is hardly the case now.
Reading about John Lewis, as a 22-year old, learning how to receive beatings due to the non-violent protesting he was exercising in the 60s is as devastating as it is eye-opening. He practiced how to shield himself in ways to minimize the internal damage that would be done while he accepted the beatings…so that he could get up the next day and do it again. He wasn’t learning how to fight back, he was learning how to absorb the hate being delivered upon him. He was being taught what the movement called ‘Radical Love’ – literally how to love people who hated you so much because of your skin color that they’d rather see you killed than share a stool at a counter with you.
Think about that.
And then I think about the times we live in. Where people of color still feel the need to remind us that their lives matter. How did we get to a point in our lives humanity where we hear someone say, “My life matters!”, and instead of seeking to find out why they might need to say that and how we can help, so many of us instead decide to try to stop them from speaking. In too many cases, to stop them from breathing.
So yeah, I had a down week wrestling with all of this and trying to decide if humans are just innately incapable of empathy. That maybe we’re all wired to be tribal and fight for what’s ours and protect our kind. Maybe a small few break through and actually care about helping those that are less fortunate than themselves. Which brings small, incremental improvements but doesn’t move the needle enough. Not nearly enough.
Then I spoke to a friend that, through a few text messages, realized I needed a talking to :) The first thing he said was, “Honestly, I don’t know what to do with a down Hilimire.” If you know me, you know I’m usually positive and optimistic and generally in a good mood. And while that’s obviously not always the case, it’s very rare that I show anything but positivity to others.
So my friend spent an hour talking with me and showed me a path forward. He sympathized with what I was feeling, and while not disagreeing, showed me that there is reason to believe that we can get to a better place, and even more reasons to believe that I need to keep trying to find ways to be a part of the solution. That giving up isn’t the answer, and the only reason I can even consider that path is because of my privilege.
“There are people who are stuck here, and they don’t have the option to give up and move to New Zealand. That’s why we have to keep pushing forward, keep having hope, and use our gifts to keep fighting for what’s right.”
Thank you, friend. I needed that, because I don’t know what to do with a ‘down Hilimire’, either :)