I answered the phone this morning, expecting my coaching client, only to hear a harried woman practically shout at me “The rioters have made it to the Walgreens near our house and broken in!” I politely excused myself, took my expected call, and then strolled up the hill to check out the damage at the store – which was a small broken window that opportunistic thieves likely used to steal goods while our city police force was focused elsewhere. All the other nearby businesses were intact.
Later, I realized the harried woman had been my elderly neighbor calling, and I called her back. “How are you feeling?” I asked. “Do you need anything?”
“I’m a bit paranoid.” she said.
Fear is a powerful emotion. Some would argue it is the most powerful.
It causes us to get on the phone, and share our anxiety, and support things we wouldn’t normally. It makes us avoid looking deeper at the situation if it doesn’t affect us directly. It helps us sidestep uncomfortable conversations. It causes us to group people – different races, people working certain jobs, other political parties, someone we disagree with – as others, so we can assuage our raging hearts. It causes us to stay home, and stay silent.
I felt the fear of my neighbor and I held it. I feel fear too. I worry about my family, and getting my parents sick, and exposing my children to the virus. I worry about my business, and my clients, and my course members, and losing belonging in the groups I care about by speaking out too much.
I’ve felt something stronger than fear. I was exhausted, like I am now, and barely sleeping. Yet when I heard that faint, plaintive cry from the other room I awoke and went swiftly to pick up my son and feed him. It was the love for another human being. And love, it turns out, is the most powerful emotion.
I can’t stop hearing George Floyd’s voice call “Mama”. A soul’s siren call of love: Pay attention to those dying in front of us. Run into the other room and take care of each other.
We’re at an inflection point in our country. Where we get to decide who we are. Are we moving toward love? Or are we stuck in fear? A moment to rumble with a world where humanity wins. To understand that these unjust systems that have protected some of us for so long need to end. And the question becomes, not how do we feel – but what will we do?
This Sunday my husband and sons went to their first protest. We marched with thousands of others down Market Street, my youngest son on his scooter. We wore masks and felt the power of peacefully and safely coming together. Before arriving I felt the soundless weight of fear, of exposing my family, or putting us in the way of potential violence. Yet wanting to live in a world where all our children are safe kept me moving. Because until there is justice for all, there will be no peace. We’re not terrorists. We’re families. We’re mamas and papas and young people and leaders and children. We’re christians and buddhists and jews and muslims and atheists and families of police officers and from the north and south and east and west. Today I encourage you to think of specific steps that you can take toward love, wrestling with fear and systemic racism.
Will you walk with us?
Fear keeps us home and silent. And fear can also cause us to focus on the speck in our neighbor’s eye, while ignoring the log in our own. I don’t have this all figured out. I stumble on this journey more often than not. Courage is not the absence of fear, but feeling afraid and moving forward anyway.
More courageous when I’m walking alongside you,
Online resources I’ve found helpful to understand this moment:
For Managers: How Managers Can (and Should) address Race and Violence ( 5 minute read)
For Christians or those exploring faith: Carl Lenz & Bishop T.D. Jakes (1.5 hour video)
For Trevor Noah fans: Dominos of Racial Injustice (20 minute video)
For Obama’s call to action: How to Make this Moment a Turning Point (5 minute read)
Books I’ve found helpful to dig deeper into my own unconscious bias:
White Fragility: Why it’s so hard for White People to Talk About Racism (non-fiction)
Such a fun age (novel)
Little Fires Everywhere (novel)
Be the Bridge (online course and download resources)
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