An Accident of Privilege

Untitled design-25

My son was in a car accident. Aside from being shook up, he’s fine, it wasn’t his fault. It is an odd and helpless thing to wait in the line of traffic caused by your own child’s accident. The only thing you know or can see is the family vehicle sideways in the intersection surrounded by emergency vehicles and personnel. Blinding lights spinning, alerting, drawing attention and concern.

Once I managed to find a close parking space, I stood on the southeast corner of the intersection as instructed by the authorities. While the police officers conducted their investigation with my sixteen-year-old, his texts came: “Are you here?” “I don’t know what to do.”  Before talking with Brooks, I was asked if I wanted to have an ambulance at the scene. He was not to be released without my permission. I stated that I would take him to get medical attention if he needed to go, but if it didn’t seem an emergency, I trusted them.

The helpers were wonderful. The helpers provided instruction and direction, from the fire-persons to the police officer, the tow truck driver to the insurance company. Each next step accompanied by a smiling face and watchful eye and kind words and appropriate clucks of concern.

Yet, I wonder, the woman at fault, the driver with no insurance. Was she treated with the same consideration, the same dignity? Were the emergency personnel as concerned for her well-being as for my son’s? I hope so, I have no reason to believe she wasn’t.

Our privilege came in handy today. The pale of our skin, the smiles on our faces, the shaking of hands and gratitude. We have room, we have margins, we have insurance and extra vehicles.  We have options, while a fender bender is an inconvenience, we will not be ruined financially. We have a policy with provisions for uninsured motorists. We have resources. We have hope. We have privilege.

What if Brooks was not a white young man with means, what if, instead, he was a Latino or Black young man, a Muslim? What if he didn’t have a stay-at-home parent with a vehicle to hop into at a moment’s notice to retrieve him and provide comfort, to talk with the police?

I don’t know. But what I do know, our privilege helped. I was present within minutes. Proof of registration and insurance in the glovebox. A nice, large vehicle providing cushion for the blow, with airbags and sensors and leather seats. Our privilege was valuable, indispensable. I am grateful my child is safe and we were treated with respect.

This privilege card, I carry, can be played at the right time. When the stakes are high and we are backed against a wall, I hold the power to play the white card, to play the wealthy card, to play the good citizen card. In the way our nation is set up, our systems revolve around my family’s color, white.

For each white male, young or old, are dozens of black and brown males without the same protections. I cannot speak for my city, but countless stories play across my Twitter feed of another man of color, boy of color without the same protections of privilege, their skin shade an automatic sentence of guilt.

My privilege, our experience today plants seeds of tension in me, an uncomfortable and tenuous tension that begs me to take a firm and severe consideration of truth. The truth is, I can sleep at night because my boys are white. I can sleep at night because my boys have resources. I can sleep at night because my boys will be given the benefit of the doubt and will have a fair shake at justice. I recognize my fortune for having white children, for being a white family with means, with resources, with ties and privilege.

I want to carry this privilege well, wielding it with care and deep humility, recognizing the benefits. I must stare the privilege down, while educating my children, through discussion and awareness. I carry the tension tight, each fists bearing the weight of the questions and unspoken answers, the nuance and truth staring back ugly, with vicious humility. I believe, somehow, in our ability to recognize our preferential treatment, we are at the heart of dismantling the unequal and punitive systems. When I am aware of my privilege, I can be more aware of another’s lack.

My privilege, my boy, will always have justice on his side. He will always hold the assumption of innocence. He owns the ability to move about this earth with confidence and freedom from fear, as a white, cisgender, heterosexual male.

I pray, I hope, as his mother, I can impress upon him the gift, the responsibility this is, for I will never understand.

More Questions Than Answers 

 

Untitled design-24

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all — the apathy of human beings.    ― Helen Keller

I’m angry. Still. I’m angry because people are dead. I’m angry because an unstable man with access to military grade weapons took the lives of forty-nine beautiful people and altered the worlds of countless more.

I’m angry because many Christians are silent – with deafening silence.

Why are all churches not lamenting, breaking beyond belief? Why did I go to church yesterday, a church not my own, and Orlando was not mentioned, nor alluded to? Nothing was spoken, no prayer, no comment.

Why? Is it because these men and women were gay? Or Latino? Is it because they were in a nightclub? Could it be because of the politics around the gun debate? Is it because of Isis?

Why has there been little mention? Why was my Facebook feed littered with French flags last November, and on our own soil, Orlando, nary a tear?

This tragedy, why are we as Christians not broken beyond belief? Why are our eyes not burning from the tears and sweat? How do we contain ourselves?

The strange and unwieldy disconnect is harmful, the cognitive dissonance too much. Our nation was rocked. Our world tipped. Safety in our sanctuaries once again violated.

Why are the Christians so quiet? The few who have spoken are yelling, crying out to be heard.

Is this our definition of loving the sinner and hate the sin? Is this how we say I love you to the LGBTQ community, a community that is aching and fighting for equality and security? I’m not seeing much love.

Did your church mention Orlando? Did your church say the names and weep and mourn? Did your pastor choke up over bodies broken and dead, over mothers and fathers, lovers and friends who lost their favorite people?

Can God turn Her back? Is this possible? For so long I thought, as a Christian, I had the answers, that I was the chosen. Now I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure that Christian holds the power it used to. I’m not so sure, this being known for our fear and deafening silence is serving our work of love. I’m not so sure God isn’t shaking Her head in wonderment and disappointment.  Could God be fed up? I wish I could give an unequivocal No.

This is the work we must do, church. This is the responsibility we must own, to be louder than the voices of condemnation and hate and homophobia and disregard. This is the task we are given, to bear the light of hope, justice and mercy.

Who led us to believe the work of love was easy, with pat answers and condemnation of “sin”? Who told us the desires of our hearts were wrong? Who told us our insides were not to be trusted?

Clearly I am more questions than answers. I am devastated, disappointed, pained by the people I love. The people I love who have stayed quiet and the people I love piled on the floor and in bathroom stalls of a dance club because of fear and hate.

Fifty of our brothers and sisters are broken, their bodies splayed, terror stricken upon their forms. Phones ringing, slicing the silence, loved ones waiting for news, for something.  Brothers and sisters, wives and husbands, fathers and mothers, friends, neighbors, co-workers, fellow Christians.

These are our people, Church. These are our hearts. We belong to each other. When one part of the body aches, we all ache. When one part of the body dies, we all die.

Where is our lament, our collective grief? Where is our empathy?

When will things change? When will people be embraced because we are all human, children of God, bearing God’s image?  When will relief be felt?

I am beginning to see churches tip toward love and mercy, grace and abundance. I am noticing pockets of welcome, inclusion, celebration and freedom. I am witnessing love at its finest. I pray soon we are known and recognized not for our stances on hot topic issues but for our rushing in and toward. I pray the day comes when our words and our actions line up with our instructions, as the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

I pray, when our fellow humans hurt, we will work together, in tandem, providing and aligning our humanity, bringing relief to the broken and overwhelmed parts of our world, regardless of race, gender, sexuality, age. I pray we can love together with ferocity and fullness, shining light into the ache, supplying cold water to the thirsty and bread for the hungry, enacting change to the systems.

May we stand firm and steady in love and defy what appears otherwise.

The Thing About Allies After Orlando (Guest Post by Trevor Watkin)

These good 44 – a life reflection

Untitled design-22

Birthdays are hard, my expectations haywire at the oddest moments. While I crave the spotlight, I also shy away, preferring to plan last minute gatherings over a big party. I am ever grateful on June 6 when the pressure passes and I can resume normal routines, settling into my new number.

Being a June baby is nice. This month fits me. Grateful to see the crazy busy of May gone, while ill-prepared for the heat of July, where sleep is a near rarity when divorced from the whir of air conditioners. June offers the hope of planted seeds and blooming color, the absolute wonder of an afternoon thunderstorm, trees full and lawns green, nights remain cool – the evening breezes wafting through the open windows.

At my birthday dinner, my mom asked what I’ve learned after forty-four years.

Here is my attempt to answer her question:

Forty-four offers authority. The grand experiments of parenting and marriage are revealing their cracks and their fruits. Grace and gratitude have been wrung from both the best and worst of times. The delicious byproduct, wisdom, is carried around in my pocket as a secret delight. I am thrilled when given an opportunity to dispense a hard-learned nugget. Joy coming from choosing the struggle and tunneling through to the other side with deeper understanding and respect.

Forty-four offers perspective. Life’s cycles and seasons are coming around again. The untested certainty of the 20s and 30s  replaced with mercy and humility.  I am becoming more myself, while sticking to my own lane, finding my beauty and pleasure in what I was created and designed to do, as a woman, a mother, a wife and friend.

Forty-four yells at me to stop trying to be happy. This aging body aches. Muscles and bone, but also spirit and soul. I cannot fix the world. I cannot heal the pain. I can, however, choose discomfort. I can honor the struggle of the people around me, in my world and in the greater world. I can choose to see and strive for justice by recognizing my privilege. The weight of the world dwells in me and I have work to do. Balancing the blessing with the ache is my joy, my painful joy. I want to lay in my soft bed and consider the refugee with no place to call home. I want to take a warm shower and remember my homeless neighbor. I want to fill my belly and honor the poverty-stricken children in my own country. My ache holds my greatest joy and greatest confusion. I try to shake the throb, but to no avail. As Martin Luther King, Jr stated: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Our work is to fight injustice beginning with our comfort. Our work is to carry human dignity through equality into our worlds. So I try to bear the burden with humility and imperfection and fear. I fail, I look stupid, I succeed some of the time. Meanwhile, I am urged and I crawl. My happiness is not important. I would rather live with my eyes wide open.

Forty-four tells me I need fewer friends but deeper friendships. My friends pour into me and I into them, sometimes from excess and often from dregs. I bear burdens and others bear mine. My work is not to save but to carry the mutual expectation that we are there for one another. I don’t get to be the savior, nor do I get to be the victim.

Forty-four has given me permission. Yes is scarce and no is abundant. The physical and emotional outputs as wife, mother, friend, writer are great. Opportunities, no matter how noble, are competition for my priorities. Naps are a rule. Meditative prayer, journaling and super-strong coffee are my mornings. Regular dates with Eric keep our home life humming along with health and precision, fending off the threat of careless apathy and creeping disrespect.

Forty-four has shown me the gravity and potential fragility of marriage and family. Revealing the need for consistent stoking of the fires of respect through conversation, the crafting of friendship, the recognition of mutuality. The constant work of seeking to understand and giving the benefit of the doubt is essential, while recognizing and respecting differences.

Forty-four has set my feet on the path of love. Loving God, loving myself, loving others requires abundant and swift grace, doing the meticulous work of forgiveness, forging through the darkness of chosen suffering to learn the art of mercy. Empathy and compassion spring from choosing to see. Our light shines when we learn to bear with fortitude the burdens of another and when we live into our own beloved-ness, owning the fundamental truth that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Nothing can loosen God’s grip on us. We are secure, safe, held.

Forty-four has made its mark on my body. The lines around my eyes now meet in a continuous arc to my mouth. Permanent creases line my forehead, a furrow etched along my brow line. Gray hairs increase at exponential rates and Achilles tendons cry out after periods of inactivity. My hands have become unfamiliar, and my skin more spotty than not. I forget things. I’m tired. Yet, I am grateful.

The authority and beauty of aging, the lines and grays and spots are honorable and hard won. My heart is fuller, more resilient than ever.

The best word to describe my first 44 years – good.

Let’s toast to another 44.