“It’s Hard to Stare at the Pain
But it’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”
That quote comes from one of the main characters in Oprah Winfrey’s TV Show, “Queen Sugar.” I’m sorry that I don’t remember who said that – I was too busy scribbling it down so I could share it on here.
Let’s take a look at what they said and how it can apply to what we might be going through:
“It’s hard to stare at the pain…..”
When I look at the things that have happened in my life
• medical problems from brain surgery in January of 2018 that are still causing substantial difficulties (or differences – depending on the day) and will be until the good Lord decides to grant a miracle. (Want to know more, Google AVM – Arterio-Venous Malformation).
• It has been 2 years and 4 months since my Dad passed away.
I’m not going to go into more of mine right now – but let’s look at some of the things on the national and international scale:
• How many families all over the world are dealing with the loss of a loved one to CoVid19?
• How many children all over the world are struggling because school – in many places and for many kids – was the foundation that they could count on. I saw it when I was substitute teaching – you could tell some kids were so much more secure at school than it appeared to be at home?
• How many of our brown and black neighbors have seen a rise in discrimination because the “other fringe” seems to think that the resident of the White House approves of it?
• How many people have loved ones fighting this disease — either in their own families or because they are on the front line of caring for the people who are sick and fighting CoVid?
• George Floyd
• _____________(fill in the names of recent victims of police shootings.)
• How many times have people argued over wearing masks while carrying rifles?
• How many times has Dr. Faucci had to go in front of the media and correct things that our government says are true?
And I could go on and on and on. It’s really hard.
It’s really hard to stare at the pain. Really really hard. Hard enough that people who know way more than I do are anticipating a growing mental health crisis in our country.
It’s really hard.
But it’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”
“Ignore it and it will go away.” That might work for a stubbed toe or a skinned knee, but that doesn’t work for pandemics and hate crimes and police shootings and……….
“It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.”
Don’t put it in the closet.
Don’t hide it under the rug.
Don’t put on a smiley face because that’s what people want.
Personal note – Due to the Covid 19 and my increased risk if I got it, you probably haven’t actually seen me in a while. I’m being a bit of a hermit because the medical issues I already have, if they combined with CoVid would be kind of nasty.
But you know what, if you ran into me at the grocery store (hypothetically speaking) – or let’s say we were talking online in a Zoom call, it would be the exact opposite. It would be easy for you to pretend like my pain isn’t there. I really don’t look that much different than 2 or 3 years ago (not that much) and so it would seem to be easier to pretend like the pain isn’t even there.
Until, until I try to pick up my ice tea with my left hand and the nerve tremors make me have to switch hands so my computer doesn’t get flooded.
Until I try to lead a discussion on ___________ (pick the subject) and 15 minutes into it, my voice gets quieter and quieter and I start coughing more and…….
It’s harder for me to pretend like the pain isn’t there. Because then I’m forcing myself into a position where I have to do and say and be the same things I was before the surgery. And I can’t.
It’s harder for you to pretend the pain isn’t there, because you know it is.
It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there when you see it all around you.
It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there when the deacons at your church ask for more donations because more people at your church lost their jobs and need help.
It’s harder to pretend like the pain isn’t there.
And there’s so much “hard” going on right now that more of us should be seeking the help of professionals to help us figure out how to work through the “hard.”
Because they know it’s hard to stare at the pain
They know it’s harder to pretend it isn’t there.
I know, I have and continue to have someone in my corner helping me navigate the hard.
I hope that you at least ask yourself, “Should I talk to someone about getting through all of this?”
It could be a life saver.
They don’t teach this in pre-adoption parenting classes. (At least I don’t know any that do). If you know any that do, leave their contact information and details in the comments, please!
The article below spells it out very well, but it is an area of adoptive parenting that the adoption “industry” deserves a failing grade in. Consequently, we are sending many children of color, children of color who were raised by white parents, out into the world without adequate knowledge and preparation for how the world is going to look at them.
When my youngest two children came home from Haiti, they were two and three years old. While I can’t claim any credit for it genetically, they were two really adorable toddlers. They have grown up a lot in the last 16 years. There are many people who have had an impact on that growth and we are grateful for community that has helped us raise all 5 of our kids.
A strange thing happens as kids grow up. They don’t stay looking like the adorable toddlers they were. (Okay, actually, that would be kind of weird if they did). But instead they grow up and start looking like the kind of adults the world is afraid they will become – black ones.
Because black men who are very muscular are dangerous. Right?
Black men who drive alone in their car enjoying the summer night with the music up and the windows down are dangerous, Right?
Black men who ask too many questions when pulled over for going 31 mph in a 25 mph speed limit zone are angry and dangerous because they must be hiding something. Right?
Black teenagers who go the mall with their friends are thugs looking to steal something or get in a fight with someone. Right?
And that’s where the adoption agency and adoptive families and the churches fall short. We must do a better job.
We must do a better job before the adoption is finalized in teaching white parents that there will certain conversations and certain roles that this world forces parents of children of color to have. I can teach my son how to be an adult, a husband, a father, a banker but I can’t teach him how to be a black adult, a black husband, a black father…..
Because I don’t know. I don’t know how to be any of these. Because I haven’t been those and I never will.
And that is why, not for the sake of the parents but for the sake of the kids, start doing whatever you can to help children of color, especially male children of color (though what I’ve heard, there’s an equally hideous (if not more) tragedy that can happen to girls of color.)
Maybe the best way to help the kids of color who have white parents is to get the white parents together and scare them into reality? And then get things moving for their kids to show them some of the reality of the world we live in.
Just about a month ago, my son had a headlight go out on his car. He was going to fix it “tomorrow.” Apparently his girlfriend was waiting for him. I said, “you have a choice to make. Choice #1 be home before the sun goes down. Choice #2 let’s get busy and change that lightbulb as quickly as we can and then you can go.”
“Dad, I’ll do it tomorrow, it’s not that big of a deal.”
“Son, I love you too much to let you go out and drive after dark in a car with a headlight that says, “Hey Mr. Police Officer, here I am, come talk to me.” Is that what you really want to say? Do you really want to waive a sign asking the police to pull you over at 11:15 at night and you’re a teenage young black man and you’re all alone and you’ve got a head light out.
Don’t go there.
And Dads – it’s our responsibility, whether we are black, brown or white to make sure that not only our kids but also their friends and others know the reality of “Driving While Black.” I can’t do it. But I can sure talk about it and do my best to prevent it from happening.
Oh and while we’re at it, what’s up with hooded sweatshirts? We have a rule in our family, the only place you can wear the hood up on a hooded sweatshirt is outside when the weather is conducive to them. It’s 20 degrees out, that’s perfect hoodie weather. It’s 75 degrees out? Nope, not so much. Hood off.
If you walk into a public building – restaurant, gas station, school, friend’s house and you are stepping out of the weather, the hood comes off. Not eventually. 1 step inside the building.
Why? Because if you take your hood off, people can see your face. If you take your hood off, you don’t look nearly as much like a gang banger as the white people in the gas station might think you do with the hood pulled way down. When you take your hood off, it increases the chance that the people you are going to interact with will see you for who you are – a well behaved teenage young black man. If you keep the hood on, people are going to let their theories run all over the place and before you know it, you’ve got trouble and the manager is on the phone with the cops.
I’m not saying that keeping your hoodie off when you are inside and when the weather doesn’t call for one outside is going to solve the police brutality issues. I did grow up in the all white middle class suburbs, but I’ve learned a lot since I was a kid.
And I know that taking off your hoodie certainly won’t hurt.
P.S. If you know of people who work in this or could help or you want to or whatever about it, let me know – use the comment box on the right.
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities “unwise and untimely.” Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. wrote that.
Okay, think about that sentence a bit.
“While confined…..in the Birmingham city jail,”
Do you know anyone who willingly allowed themselves to be arrested because of something that was done that they felt was wrong? Up until George Floyd’s murder, I didn’t.
Now I do.
On a night of protests about George Floyd’s murder, they went to Rosa Parks Circle minutes after the “demonstration” time was done and the police were starting to get everyone out of the park area. A couple from my kids youth group – some of the volunteer leaders – felt that the murder of George Floyd was strong enough reason to take a stand.
So they went to the middle of Rosa Parks Circle and quietly sat on the ground in the middle of the circle and waited. Waited for the police to come and tell them the protest was done at 7:00 PM and it was 7:15. The police came and told them to leave. They didn’t move.
The police came back. And this time the police made sure that they left – because they got escorted to the police department.
It wasn’t angry, it wasn’t violent, it wasn’t loud. But to me it was very effective because it was so very well thought out. They went to Rosa Parks Circle knowing that what they were doing was in direct opposition to a police order. From what I have heard, they were prepared and had their bail money already raised. If I had known they were raising money for bail, I would have gladly contributed.
Why’d they do it? Very simply, because there was a discrepancy between what they felt was right and what the government said was right.
Okay,time warp coming……
We’re back in the Civil Rights era and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is sitting in jail in Birmingham. Why’s he in jail? Because of something he did that was really wrong? No, not really. He was in jail because there were things happening that the government was allowing and he thought they were wrong. He thought, “No Colored People allowed” was wrong. He thought that having signs that said, “No colored people served here” was wrong.
And you know what? It was. And it still is.
Getting back to the statements from the Letters from the Birmingham Jail” and the three important words in this sentence:
• “Your” statement calling…. I believe that he specifically used “Your” rather than “the church” or “your church” or the First National Baptist Church of Southern Alabama. Dr. ML King Jr. chose “your” because it personalized it and it made it clear to whoever read them that Dr. King did not see them as speaking on behalf of the church. Their statements were about them and about what this did to them. And let’s be honest, there were probably some of the people who signed the statement or who go to those churches that didn’t agree with them.
• “Untimely” – So why did they say that Dr. King’s coming to town and holding marches and such was “untimely?” Well, if you read into it further, you find out that they wanted to try to negotiate, to reason with the opposition and to come to agreements that way. Further research will tell you that there are a variety of positions in the local government that were changing and the clergy who wrote to Dr. King wanted to wait until they all had a chance to settle in because (I’m surmising, they thought that the people in new positions in the government would be more open to change if it wasn’t presented on their first day on the job. How did Dr. King respond to that?
“Justice delayed is Justice denied.”
• “The third word is “unwise.” To translate into more “everyday” language, “that’s a stupid thing to do.” So basically, these pastors are saying, “Dr. King, we know this better than you, we are from here, you are from Atlanta and we don’t think that now is the time to be having outsiders protesting because you all aren’t from around here and because……”
“I am in Birmingham because injustice is here.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made it about as plain as can be. You want to fight injustice then you need to go to where injustice is. You can’t sit in your recliner in Atlanta and point west to Birmingham and say, “Uh, yeah, go fix that over there.” You see injustice in Grand Rapids, you fight injustice in Grand Rapids.
We’ll talk more about this as we continue to unpack the wisdom in the Letters from a Birmingham Jail. We’ve got a lot of other things to look at as well.
On Being Uncomfortable
Last night I was scrolling through Facebook and reading some news, reading some of what some particular authors said, reading some of the funny things my friends do (Looking at you, LeMarr and also Todd). I came across an article that a number of the leaders of/in not only my church but other places around were commenting on and talking about. It made me stop and read the article. (I can’t locate the article otherwise I would link to it.)
I read it and it made me sad. I started composing a comment but I decided that I would be better off waiting to the next day and write it out in more detail. If I had to summarize it in 3 points, well, here goes:
- There are more multi-cultural churches now than there have been.
- There is a strong feeling among church leaders who are persons of color that they have to act more “white” to be able to play a leadership role in their church. I believe that the term that’s often used is “code switching.”
- There are a fair number of white people (people like me) often middle aged (kind of like me) and usually middle class (yup) who like to have a multi-cultural church but they like it only if it’s led by people like them. (NOT ME)
That reminds me of something our former (since retired) Senior Pastor, Pastor Dave used to say. I remember it still because he said it one of the first times we came to visit Madison.
“Be prepared to be uncomfortable. Because worship is not about being comfortable. Worship is about talking with God. Worship in a multi-cultural church is about talking with God the way that you are used to. But also the way you are used to. And the way that the lady on the aisle who is _________is used to. And some of that is going to make you uncomfortable. That’s okay. Actually that’s good. Because if you, Mr. White People, are always comfortable, then your neighbors, the people of color sitting in the row in front of you, across the aisle and scattered throughout your church, they don’t get a chance to feel comfortable.
They don’t have a chance to feel comfortable and so then they don’t that God and God’s people are welcoming them. Welcoming them as they are.
Let me say that again but in a slightly different manner. If you “do” worship and everything about your church so the white guys are always comfortable, that sends a sometimes subtle and sometimes not so subtle message to the people of color, “Sorry, this is our church.” What do you think Jesus would say about that?
When my kids, especially my two youngest adopted from Haiti kids, moved from our old church to our new church, one of the things that made a huge difference for them was the fact that the leadership looked like them. At our old church, the only time someone who wasn’t white was behind the pulpit was if there was a special service – like a missions Sunday. There were three people who felt uncomfortable there, and as my kids grew up, they and we felt more and more uncomfortable.
I am comfortable with being uncomfortable. I know that Madison is not “my church.” I’m a part of God’s Church at Madison but there are many others of different nationalities, different races, different colors who are also part of God’s Church at Madison.
Come on, my fellow white people, if you’re going to go to a multicultural church, then you should have the grace and wisdom to make sure that the leadership is adequately balanced so everyone has “ownership” in the church. Plus, why do we, as white people, think we are the only ones who can do it?
If you belong to a multi-cultural church, you should be willing to be uncomfortable and to step aside and do things “different.” Those in your church who don’t look like you will appreciate it. Your church will be better for it.
If you can’t let someone who puts the “multi” in multi-cultural church be part of the leadership, if you are constantly pushing for having white people in positions of leadership, then what do you really want out of being part of a multi-cultural church? Is it a status thing? A “holier than thou” thing?
If you aren’t willing to be multi-cultural in the leadership of your church, then what are you doing? You want to be comfortable and multi-cultural? How’s that work?
Come on, white guys, we know better. Step aside and let your friends of color be the leaders too.
You’ll be pleased with what God’s up to.
Martin Niemoller – post WWII Concentration Camp Survivor