I’ve mentioned before that I’ve joined a Make Blogging Fun Again group. Let’s not talk about how good I’ve been at keeping up with it (aka horrible). With a heavy heart this morning, I opened my inbox. Some ‘fun’ and some creativity seemed like a good idea, so I opened up to where I had left off before – and found myself staring at a prompt on gratitude.
I immediately brightened up a bit. Gratefulness. It’s used to make anyone’s day better, a small trick countless boast of to improve both your mood and your life. An “attitude of gratitude” is a hip thing to have these days; it’s supposed to win you more friends and lower stress levels. And I have plenty to be grateful for. I’ve actually started practicing (what some call) the Prayer of Reflection – taking time each night to reflect on the day, where I saw God show up, what I was most thankful for. Then, from that place of gratitude, praying for the next day, for more of God’s presence, for more awareness. It’s a game changer, people.
All that to say, with the prompt of gratitude, I beyond ready. Let me tell you all about what I’ve been grateful for lately – I reflect on it every night! Let me tell you about the wedding I went to this weekend, the faces I was reunited with. Let me tell you about what God has been growing in me lately, where I’ve seen such unexpected providence. Let me tell you about all the little things I’ve become extra thankful for in my life. Let me write you the most beautiful, reflective, eloquent blog on gratitude.
And then, I stopped, because I remembered why my heart was so heavy 5 minutes prior, why I had escaped the land of newsfeeds and news stories and retreated to my inbox.
I was going to write a status. (Isn’t it funny, how that’s our idea of doing something? I’m gonna go on Facebook and write a status!) I was going to write about the anger, the shouting, the hate filling up my newsfeed. Bombs in New York, bombs in New Jersey. Police shooting in Tulsa, police shooting in Charlotte. It’s been a terrifying week in America, and it’s only Wednesday. And what are we doing? Mourning? Grieving? Rallying together? No, we’re yelling.
“He didn’t have his hands in the air!”
“He was innocently walking back to his car!”
“There was no gun!”
“There was no book!!”
“The FBI should have caught this!”
“You’re believing lies of the media!”
I’m learning anger is a second emotion. It’s usually our reaction to hurt, fear, pain. And sometimes we’re called to get angry, sometimes anger at the injustices have incited movements for change. And yet… we need to feel the feelings before the anger. We need to stop and take a second – breathe, mourn, grieve, pray – before we carry on blindly towards anger. Can’t we stop and see what we’re reacting from before picking up our weapons? That’s what I think we’re missing here. That’s why our anger seems to be getting us no where. Have you ever won someone over to your side with all your Facebook debates? I have yet to see it happen. Have you ever won someone over with an invitation to share their grief, to sit in their pain? To not offer answers and explanations, but instead your presence and your support? Those are the people I walk a little closer to, the ones I’m willing to hear out.
All of that was going to be a (more eloquently worded) Facebook status. A cry for a cease fire, a plea for some sanity in the madness. And then I stopped, because I felt like it would be contributing to the madness. Do we need more people saying the same thing? Is this going to add to the yelling? Do I even have a voice in this, is this my place or my platform? I’m not sure. But I sure know these days you don’t want to be caught saying the wrong thing…
Facebook status nixed, I opened my inbox. Gratefulness. Hm. Might be nice to post something on gratefulness, I mused. Might be a nice break, from all the yelling. What better way to diffuse the anger than with some gratitude?
And, then, a scary question popped into my mind: Is this white privilege? Getting to disengage, getting to choose when to feel, mourn, grieve, and when to put it down and walk away. Having the option to take a stand or …hey, you know what, let’s talk about something else.
Am I heartless for wanting to post something to lighten the mood, some brightness in a newsfeed of very dark voices? Or is that something we are called to – being lights in this world, choosing to see some good when the world seems all bad?
Am I horrible for wanting to talk about something else? Not because I think it doesn’t matter – oh goodness, it matters – but because I think the conversations I see are getting us no where? Because I think we need to take a step back from the yelling?
And – the hardest question of all – what is my role, as white person? I need to speak up, for the color of my skin grants me an audience people of color don’t get tickets for. I need to keep quiet, for I am not the minority and not the oppressed – I don’t need to be their voice and explain pain I’ve never experienced. I need to act, I need to do something, say something, join something because this isn’t okay. I need to stop, because what can I really do? What change can I cause? So far, there seems to be no right answers – and do I really want to act out on behalf of a wrong one?
There’s so many questions. There’s so few answers. And they keep changing, depending who you ask. Depending where you look. Depending who you are.
I felt like I needed to keep my mouth shut. So, no Facebook status, no blog. I felt like maybe, just maybe, we shouldn’t let pain dampen our joys – we should cling to what is good. So I went ahead and uploaded some pictures on Facebook from this past weekend – it’s been my goal of 2016 to document things more, to gather pictures and memories and store them better. Sadly, Facebook is the best way for me to do that. So I added to my 2016 album pictures of a road trip and a wedding and so many reunions, all wrapped into one very long weekend. I decided life is still happening, and we should embrace that.
Almost immediately, I felt horrible. How dare I upload fun memories, reflect on sweet times, when there is so much pain at the moment? When others’ lives are seemingly stuck? When others’ lives have tragically come to an end? How heartless must I look, when alongside articles of FBI investigations into terrorism and videos of an unarmed man being shot, are my pictures at a friend’s wedding?
I don’t know how to walk this line of being human in such a cruel world. I can’t stop in my tracks every time a news story breaks my heart – for the heartbreaking reason that I would never get anywhere. And yet I can’t pretend like nothing’s happening; I can’t see smoke and pretend there’s not a fire.
I fully believe God is GOOD. I also fully believe it is so, so hard to see that sometimes. To keep faith in a good God in such a cruel world, to believe a loving God can coexist with all this hate. What is my role? What is yours?