I am back home in Atlanta from facilitating a wonderful workshop at Wake Forest Divinity with a nasty, nasty cold but that is ok. Nice metaphor for my life right now.
Last night as I got off the Marta train station at Brookhaven, there were 3 of us ladies with our rolling luggage and we had to get on the elevator to come down off the platform. The other two ladies, both white, started talking about how it was great to take the train since downtown was disrupted because of the protesting in the streets. One lady had not heard of the protesting. As we three walked away, this older white lady, an airline staff personnel, said to me, “Why would they be violent because they lost the election?”
I said, “I watched the protests on my phone on the train. Channel 2 did not report any violence. It is just a protest. I agree if there is violence that is not ok. But protest is the American way.”
She said, “America is a peaceful country. Violence is not our way. This country was founded on peace and these people want to make it violent.”
Honey, Frankenstein took over my entire bodily experience and my head turned on its axis 360 degrees!
I looked at her with great incredulity. “Ma’am, this country was founded on slavery and it was violent. And it continues to be violent. This country was founded on violence as the Native Americans who owned the land were killed so the white people could live here. All the black people lynched and hung from trees is very violent and the police killing black people for no cause is violent. Yet, I agree with you that protesters should not be violent. But protest is the American way. The tea party was a protest and that was violent.”
She was trembling when she said, “I just want my country back the way it should be.” She actually had teas in her eyes.
I was stunned. I stood there, feeling the cold tinge of a Fall breeze on the mild sweat of my middle aged hot flash at it took over my body! Yet, I felt no cool relief.
She walked away and somehow I managed to dig deep and tap into my internal immanent Jesus and I said, “Ma’am, be safe and take good care of yourself.”
My incredulity turned to sadness. She was really afraid and angry and I could see all sorts of invisible blinders around her head and she walked away, shoulders hunched looking at the ground, every wrinkle on her face and neck sadly sagging with expired privilege.
I felt sad because I am part of the problem. I live in a bubble. I stopped watching TV a long time ago, as I do not like the bickering on news shows. I do not like advertisements. I want my life to be peaceful. I cut out the noise. I love my Facebook timeline and I have systematically deleted so many people: Those that spew hatred and nastiness, I delete and block, like an African Orisha Ninja fueled by the Holy Spirit! My friends that agree with me, I engage with them. I feel safe with them.
Sigh! I have created a false bubble. Even my friends from very different stations in life, at the end of the day, we have so much more in common politically than one would realize on the surface.
So what I have done is create an artificial environment where, at least politically speaking, no challenge comes in. I deflect them and I have created an artificial environment where my values are not challenged by intrusions.
Yet, challenge fine tunes us and grows and expands us. Moi aussie!
It would be so easy to criticize that woman and her seemingly obvious bubble. But, what about my bubble?
I have to deal with the fact that I live in the city of Dunwoody and I do not know where my city hall is. I know the library because I check books out. I know our park because I walk that park all the time. I get the town newspaper and I think I know what is going on. I know our high school because I walk the track. But I have never sat in a council meeting. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and do “my life.”
Yet, who am I without you? Without my town, my city, my neighbors? Who am I as a solitary being in an artificial bubble?
In the words of my mentor, teacher, colleague, friend and most ardent supporter, Gregory C. Ellison, II of Fearless Dialogues, “Who is my neighbor?”
Y’all, we have to get to know our neighbors. Influence only happens when we talk and when we listen deeply. Now, “Praise Jesus” that my neighbor is cool as heck and it was a lovely visit but even if it was, my values say I care. If my neighbor did not support my candidate, I would want to have that conversation and walk away with a hug and a smile.
Nobody is ever 100% wrong. There are no absolutes. We have got to stop demonizing the “other” just because we do not agree.
I promise you, I hate to be wrong as much as the next person, but your humanity is far more important than my rightness.
Steven Covey said it a long, long, time ago, in timeless wisdom, “Seek to hear before you are heard” in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.”
My goal is to find a way to engage with others that differ from me in a meaningful way. Not to bicker, not to convince, but to deeply listen. I want to know why you did not see what I saw.
What I noticed yesterday is that I was focused the opponent’s racism and hard statements against minorities, undocumented folks, and people like me. I kept talking about that and was stunned that someone could say such things.
However, the other side was saying, “We deeply do not trust your candidate.” I heard those words but I did not work to dismantle those words. I just kept pointing out how wrong their candidate was.
Instead of promoting how trustworthy and competent my candidate was, I just enjoyed my disgust with their candidate.
Instead of celebrating how, although my candidate, the lovely Ms. Hillary Clinton, was not the ideal vision of feminine softness of beauty, I understood her slight reticence and I deeply respected her incredible smarts.
Instead of addressing the concerns of my opponent, I just ignored them. After all, their position was absurd right?
I have my own work to do to practice peace building with each person around me.
This evening, I walked over to my next-door neighbor whom I talk to but I have never entered her house. I told her that I have to do better. It is so easy to be in a bubble but bubbles are so delicate, they can be burst easily. I have lived next to this lady for two years. We are friends on Facebook and we wave and talk to each other but I have never shared that glass of wine with her. Today, I entered into her home and got to know her and her beautiful daughter. My life is richer for that experience.
Not to say I am an exemplary leader in this situation, but leaders are aware of their bubbles and the burst them easily!
Go burst your bubble! Get to know the neighbor!
And have a good laugh while you are at it!
Peace, beloved. Peace!