Love Better: Speak Peace (Thoughts on Martin Luther King Day, a Tumultuous Inauguration and Connections)

I am reeling today from the social media frenzy of friends and fake news and divisive politics and all of the powerful words at this mornings' Martin Luther King Day workshop at Valparaiso University.  Forgive my fumbling through a few of these thoughts as I try to figure out how to live well in our current world and circumstances.

There were four well prepared and insightful speakers & topics: "The Church and Criminal Justice: Hearing the Cries" by Dawn Bartsch, "A Christian in India" by Alex Ramani, "How Lawyers Balance Justice and Faith" by Derrick Howard, and Joy Moore PhD offered "Purposely Provocative".  Derrick Howard made a statement "When those who are not injured feel as offended as those who are, that is Justice".  The idea is based on the Ben Franklin quote,  "Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are." 

This little bitty sentence  brought to my mind all the conversations I have had recently when my white privileged friends express dismay about the political climate and (to my personal subjective interpretation) beseech us all to just get along, to be positive, to accept things as they are.  It reminds me of when the wife of a councilman for my district said she didn't see that we had any race relations problems in our city.  I said many other white, privileged people would agree with her and not see the depth and breadth of racism around us. It has been easier to not see it in the past but it is a grave mistake to not see it now.  

We are all racist.  This is an idea I grappled with when I taught Fair Housing Classes for a property management company I worked for. We all see differences in each other including skin color and basic physical appearance.  It is human and perfectly acceptable to see the difference, to have thoughts or personal opinions about the difference.  What is troubling is when we believe and act as if those differences make us or them more or less of something.  

(From Art Installation Brochure)
As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbor as myself.  I am a clumsy Christ Follower. I say swear words and judge others' choices and buy cheap things from China.  I have so much food in my house I sometimes decide we should just go out to eat because I cannot decide what to make or do not feel like making the effort.  I say that to say this: Once upon a time ten years ago or so I was traveling for work and ended up at a Denny's.  As I waited for my carryout order I looked over the patrons and was surprised by something unusual: They were all ugly.  The people at Denny's were each fat or funny looking or old or toothless...I began to feel smug and amuse myself in my mind at their expense.  Then I heard God.  (NOTE: No matter your personal thoughts on God or the lack thereof, this is my story.)  God showed me this is how he could see every single one of us if he chose to.  Me included.  He could see my ugliness as I sat there but he chose to love me instead, knowing I was mean and ugly inside.  

Derrick Howard mentioned a quote he likes "Ugly people know they are ugly when they wake up in the morning."  He said most people know what holds them back in life. Most people know their ugly and pretty sides, and often this knowledge is where they speak and live from.  He encouraged us "Don't be ugly."

I work hard to write to 'us and our' to avoid lecturing so please forgive me as I speak to YOU.  I assure you I am included in this word.  I need it.  I am working to improve alongside any of you who step up to the challenge. And so to my friends fighting on social media  I say these things:

1) Do. Not. Be. Ugly.  If we belittle someone and call them names no-one will want to hear our words. Your mother was right, when you speak badly about another person it says more about YOU than them.  Be a mature adult and control yourself.

2) Everyone should get a chance to be LISTENED TO.  Yes, even Those People. Spend more time listening to other people and less time trying to speak your point.  Ask them questions.  Dig deeper with everyone's best interests at heart.  In the safety of being listened to, they may be able to hear our words differently.

3) Do NOT slip into a cocoon with only like minded people.  YES have your tribe, but do not discount and close off the opposition lest they react the same way.  Conversation in a bubble is worthless. Stop blocking and unfriending folks.  Doing that says your beliefs cannot stand against or beside opposing beliefs. (And If they cannot, are you sure you want to hold them?)

4) Everyone is loved by someone.  Everyone wants to be well thought of and everyone wants to be right. Remember this before interacting with them.  Treat each person you come into contact with with love and grace and kindness REGARDLESS of how they interact with you.  When they go low, we go high.(Thanks Obama!) THAT is the hardest thing to do and takes the most strength.  Be strong.
Relevant copy from VU Art Installation Brochure

Let us Choose to live well each day.  Be kind.  Be involved.  Help people daily and your life will be worth something...both when it is over and each day you are living in it.  

May God bless your mind and every effort you make to Live and Love Better. Speak Peace.