People over things.

A page from my private notes.

It took me a while to understand what was happening within myself in response to the horrific event on February 14th.  I had the experience and presence of mind to know that we were all navigating through a collective state of shock in the immediacy of the shooting.  I know some of us still are.  As my true feelings began to permeate the shock, my mind was forced to face the sadness of the finality and reality of what had occurred.  These beautiful souls were no longer here in the flesh for their loved ones to interact with, kiss, hug, touch, watch grow.  Though their spirits will always be here,  family and friends have to adjust to their physical absence.   As much as I knew that in my mind and I experienced the deep sadness that it brought, I knew there was another level of pain waiting for me when my heart and mind would connect and I would truly begin to feel.   The longer it took to connect, the more I knew I was in a funky state of waiting.

Eventually it clicked —my heart and mind were having trouble reconciling this horrific reality, because it never should have happened.  This great loss wasn’t due to a sickness, a natural disaster or an accident (even unexpected).  This was preventable, and I know I am speaking for many when I say that it made it more difficult to accept.  Sure, we were initially met with incomprehensible grief, but there was also a righteous anger that came too, competing for its place in our hearts and minds as we processed this loss.

I have not watched the news.  I typically read the news versus watching anyway.  For the last month, I have purposely protected myself from watching, because I was living the news.  I didn’t need any outside source to tell me what I was watching, experiencing and processing first hand.

But just because I didn’t watch, that didn’t mean I didn’t hear.  I heard of young voices demanding change.  I heard of angry parents publically demanding answers.  I’m glad that they’re using their voices, but I worry about their healing in the midst of it.   They shouldn’t have to choose between fervently putting energy towards their battle for healing and their battle for change — their battle for something like this to never, ever so easily happen again.  It was too easy.  I have a problem with that.  It should never have been that easy.

I had a conversation with my sister a couple weeks ago.  She lives in Massachusetts, is a trauma nurse and knows first hand the destruction the path of a bullet can leave.   She also works as a bereavement counselor for parents who have lost children.  She has taken the losses she has personally experienced and directed that journey of enduring heartache to finding hope and healing into helping others walk through theirs.   While catching up with her, she noted that many of these families are challenged with what she terms as “distracted grief”.  I was immediately marveled by the label that so accurately described what our community was experiencing.  The sudden or any loss of a child is hierarchically the greatest pain experienced in life.  Losing a child and having other things interfere with wrapping one’s mind around that loss, impedes on working towards healing.

A message.

Through my processing, I wondered what would happen if we all took 10 seconds to attempt put ourselves in the place of these parents’ shoes, these wives’ shoes to receive such devastating news.  Even in the greatest contemplative conception of that nightmare, we wouldn’t be able to truly touch the pain they are feeling.  And we would barely be able to bare the heartache our imagination would produce.   If this had been you, would you fight with a righteous vengeance to ensure it didn’t happen again?  Fight for the implementation of increased safety measures — tangible improvements on the ones that failed your son, daughter, spouse?  Through the pain, yes we would choose to live on.  We know deep down our loved ones would want that.   We would not, however, be permitted to forget how their lives changed, how our lives changed, and take action to ensure that they were not lost in vain – we’d fight to find purpose through our pain.  As we seek to heal, please do not forget the horror we felt on that day.  It really could have happened to any one of us.

Some encouragement to our tenacious fighters.

Common sense would tell us that this fight has little to do with an elephant or a donkey.  With so many battles in our country to argue or debate over, we shouldn’t argue or debate over the protection of life at all levels.  People should always matter over things.  It seems foolish to argue over what I get to have versus who gets to live.  That will never be a logical argument to the sane.

I want to encourage the fighters who feel like you are in a war zone fighting for the simplest and most fundamental rights we have – you are not ill-equipped.  Your fight is right and it is just.  Thank you for allowing your youth to remind us of what we lost on our journey to adulthood – fervor, zest, hope in our unified power for change.  There is no argument that can stand against the right to protect your life and win.  I understand and value our historical right for freedom, but there is no good win in a fight for freedom that values things over life.  Our constitution was created and progressively amended to ensure inclusion of rights for all, not for some.  The fight that you are in, has been modeled before you and the resistance that you feel has been overcome before you.  Keep fighting the good fight, you’re on the right side of this and you are not alone.  Your courage is contagious and moves those in the back row further towards the front, as they become empowered by your relentless effort to keep pushing forward and your tenacity in not succumbing to distraction or resistance.

Final thoughts

This battle of the human heart has just begun its restless struggle of wrestling with the convictions we used to so easily pacify with apathy.  My hope is that we are not comfortable with remaining passive and do whatever we are uniquely called to, to fight for what is right.

One week from now, people will gather worldwide with a singular message.  A single agenda.  People matter more than things.  They should have always mattered more than things.  Somewhere along the line we got this out of order and now these kids are leading us back to the place where we got lost, simplifying the direction of our narrative.  We are sorry that we did not fight for the children of Sandy Hook like we are fighting now for our own and those to come.  I implore every reader to fight with conviction as if this had happened to you.  I cannot imagine a household that would stand for inclusion of access to this type of weapon if it had indiscriminately taken the life of your child or spouse.  There will always be sickness and evil in the world.  To say this was a painful wakeup call for all of us is an obvious understatement.  Now we are faced with responding – would you rather fight for evil and sickness to lose ground, or selfishly hold onto your “mine”, ignorantly thinking you will be protected the next time evil indiscriminately strikes?

I’ve been humbled to join the fight begun by others, #neveragain.

 

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A copy cannot produce the original

In having a conversation with a friend recently this phrase found its way out of my mouth: A copy cannot produce the original.  This is true, we cannot fashion ourselves off of any other person and produce anything greater than the original.  What we need to do is improve on who we are as individuals, looking to the only person we should imitate —Christ.  Even in that He created us unique — with unique gifts and purposes, ultimately for His purposes.

My pastor David Hughes said it succinctly this weekend, “You are an innovation not an imitation.”  I don’t think it’s wishful thinking to think that if we all spent more time dialing in on our identity, celebrating our uniqueness and less time playing the comparison game we would progress as a people.   What are some of your gifts and talents?   When did you first discover them and how?  Although I always recognized a uniqueness in myself, my confidence to display and develop my gifts came through the support and encouragement of good friends and family.  People that saw something in me and were not threatened by it, but instead celebrated and encouraged me and for that I am eternally grateful.  Who are your cheerleaders in life? More importantly, who are you a cheerleader and encourager for?  If you find that vicious jealousy bug popping up when you witness the success of others, chances are that you are not upset at the success in their life, but disappointed in some area of your own.  Yikes! Did that strike a chord?? Good!  If you’re reading this, you are still living and breathing and that is great news!  You have the basic criteria to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  Start today, spend time journaling, dreaming, talking to people who know you well and step deeper into those areas you know you are gifted in and see where that leads.   Your life is truly what you make it – live well.

BLACK is not a bad word

I have the sweet pleasure of volunteering and being in a position of influence for teens.  I do not take this position lightly.  It is a blessing to be able to relax and kick back with these girls as a mentor, but please hear me in this – I learn from them too!  And I’ll let you in on a little secret, sometimes they may drop a new word or phrase and I roll with it like I totally know what they’re talking about…only to slip away to my trusted friend google to maintain my cool points ;).  The real truth is they know that I may always be a step behind the new stuff, but I will always be a step ahead with the old stuff.  Speaking of, I’m about to blend an old thought with a new one – BLACK IS NOT A BAD WORD.  Let’s unpack this statement for a minute.  In the context of race, I think you all know what I am talking about.  And let me set the stage for my perspective in this conversation before I completely unpack.  I have traveled to various countries as well as all over the U.S..  I am currently living and have lived most of my adult life in South Florida.   South Florida is home to a blend of cultures, nationalities and religions; and a point of entry for many immigrants still today.  I bring up these details because it has been my experience that even in this environment, our kids are still hesitant to use the word, “black” (or African American) when describing a person.  Yet, I have no problem using the words ‘white’,’ Latino’, ‘Asian’ and yes, even ‘black’….because black is NOT a bad word…unless somehow, somewhere our kids are still taught that it is.  It was interesting to view the vast responses to Ferguson and the stories that followed.  Those who were bold enough (*please read through my sarcasm*) to sit behind a keyboard and site their opinions online may not have been as bold in person – why?  These situations will not change unless we are willing to take the stigma away from having open conversations instead of carrying on in private.  We have come a LONG way as a society, but we certainly have a long way to go.  I believe we may have become stagnant because we are afraid to ruffle the feathers of the nation or of our communities, but guess what — it’s happening anyway.

Our kids do interact with each other, and I would say for the most part do so well; BUT we cannot be ignorant to the fact that our longstanding opinions of each other have indeed infiltrated this millennial generation.  I recall an opportunity recently that I used as a teachable moment.  A young girl (teen) was excitedly telling me a story about a performer.   In her excitement she forgot his name and began to describe him instead.  I quickly knew who she was referring to, but I paused as I watched her hesitate and search for every other word to describe him but “black”.  We have a great rapport, so I allowed it for a minute before I finally said, “He’s ‘black’, you can say it.  If I were to describe you to someone else I would say ‘white’.  There is nothing wrong with that.”  A bright smile revealed her relief.  She may have felt uncomfortable saying that word in front of me, but she didn’t need to be and I needed her to know that.  I told her, “black is not a bad word.”

So I challenge you to begin interacting with others, not just on your commonalities but on your differences – this is the only way that we will truly learn from each other and put the mistakes of the past in the past.