My wife is a font of wisdom. For many years she has voiced the opinion that she’s not envious of anyone else, because their life can only be unknown to others. In a nutshell, the person you think of as perfect is possibly more flawed, more in pain, and more in need than you are at this moment. If you wish to be them, won’t you take on all of their burdens as well?
That thought rolled around in my head a lot this last weekend. Over the course of the weekend I was involved in thousands of photographs. I chatted with hundreds of people of all ages. I shared meals with people from three to eighty-three. But the wisdom that stood out above all the rest was that of a four year old girl. When asked what she wanted for Christmas, she had a simple reply: “My family and friends.” All of the material wishes, political desires, and great schemes came down to that basic human need.
I also thought about what my wife’s wisdom meant in dealing with people who looked different than me, or had different intellectual abilities, or had different mental health issues. I promised myself to deal with each of them one-on-one, and to love them just as Christ admonished us in the Bible. I made eye contact and talked to the person, not the deformity, not the skin color, not the crying need for help. I talked to them whether they were two feet tall or six foot in stockings. Each was an individual. I could only love them, but I’ll never understand them. You see, my wife is right: outside of the bag of skin that contains me I am mystified by others. I don’t get myself most of the time, how could I presume to be in the shoes of another?
Our nation is engaged in turmoil at this time, turmoil that serves to drive us all far from our individual lives. We camp on one side of a line or another in many cases. It is the rare individual who looks at the divide and tries to bridge it for the betterment of all. In the wake of several highly publicized police shootings, the tumult has risen to a new level. With the rise in commentary on the grand jury decisions I’ve noticed a cottage industry in hurt feelings and rash behavior coming to the fore. No longer are we driven to contemplate events, pray, and hope for resolution. Some among us are beating the drum and setting a pace for additional outrage and violence. I find it interesting that it’s divided along lines of age more than color.
People my age, of all colors, are more likely to look at individual events and evaluate them based on merit. Younger people are more inclined to quickly share the latest outrage on social media. The problem is that the outrage isn’t very outrageous if you look a little deeper. But Satan, and he’s clearly involved, likes it when people stay angry, drive others to anger, and foment outrage of their own in the pursuit of “justice.” I am saddened that this need to be on the front lines of an event supersedes the need to rationally address problems.
I am praying that all involved step back and rationally think about what they are pursuing. It helps in no way to post things on a blog, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook that impugn the moral character of another based on their ethnicity or social status. This is a two-way street, and both sides need to get their heads together and work toward resolution versus confrontation. I was highly offended when one of my friends (another white guy) said that I couldn’t possibly have any black friends if I could not understand their feelings of outrage. Really. Well, guess I was fooled, because I always thought I had plenty of friends outside of my portion of the skin-color spectrum. I have friends of all colors and genders but as I pointed out above, I’m not any of them. I can’t presume to think their thoughts for them.
What I can do, what I will do, what I am doing right now, is plead with all concerned to dial back the rhetoric. Quit posting the videos and fanning the flames. I know that injustice takes place. But in 2014 it’s not the de jure systemic injustice that people my age and older witnessed in our youth. It’s individual interactions gone wrong. Are there any racist police? I’d wager about the same number in general that the entire population has, regardless of color. Are there intolerant hot-heads who provoke the police because the police have rules and they don’t? Certainly. Are there truly innocent people who are hurt? Yes. Some in blue uniforms who are gunned down for no reason except their uniform. Some in civilian clothes who get the results of a confrontation gone wrong.
We are not perfect. None of us. To attribute a vicious level of hatred to another because of their job or race is unfair. It’s as unfair as racially profiling shoplifters. Neither is right. Nor is animosity of this sort, by anyone, ever right.
We have come a long way in my lifetime. I’d like to see us go a lot further. I’d like to have my friendship taken on its face value by others, I’d like my mistrust to be based on the evaluation of others based on their actions. It’s a struggle for all of us to do these things. I try each day to overcome what my lizard brain provides me with before acting or speaking. That’s all I’m asking of others.
Finally, I’m sharing this video with you in the hope that it might save even one life. While he’s speaking to young black men, this applies equally to old white men. I follow his advice and it’s kept me out of jail and alive for over five decades. A fellow Cryptoligic Technician shared it on Facebook. Pay close attention to the remarks 2/3 of the way through, for it is the ultimate message that we all need to take to heart: “We don’t love each other enough.”
I believe that with that love, the love Jesus brought to Earth for all of us 2000 years ago, we have a hope. Without it, we’re doomed. Please take some time to reflect on that today. My thanks for your consideration.