My Grandma walked everywhere she went. And when we were there to visit, my big sister Meah and I walked, too. I remember one day, we all walked to the Farmer’s Market in her hometown of Beloit, WI, with bags slung over our shoulders for the bounty we’d collect.
It was a long way from Grandma’s house. Meah and I were getting hot and tired and we started arguing about something. It escalated and we were yelling and pushing when Grandma stopped walking and told us to stop. “That’s ugly,” she said.
I remember those words. “That’s ugly.”
I knew instantly that it wasn’t us she was calling ugly, but our behavior in that moment. How can anything that pulls apart, that severs relationships, that causes anger or distress be beautiful?
Last week, I told you my fears and offered some solutions, and many of you were kind and gracious. Some of your comments and private messages brought me to happy tears. Some of them caused me to reflect deeply. I couldn’t respond to all of you, to most of you, but please know I read your words. I thought about them. I cried, I laughed, I even rejoiced.
I want to thank you for listening. Thank you for your encouragement. Thank you for starting the hard work of building bridges.
To be honest, when I started to see how far the post was going, how many times it was shared, how many comments were piling up, part of me wanted to reclaim my anonymity, delete my blog and keep living my quiet life. It was a lot of response to a girl just sharing her feelings and perspective from a mostly quiet town in the midwest. I felt worried that I wasn’t ready to answer your questions. I felt worried that I wasn’t prepared to offer solutions. I just kept thinking: This is going farther than I anticipated. I am not ready for this.
You see, I am not an expert. I am not THE black voice. I just have MY voice. I can just tell my story. I don’t know why it’s so hard to see eye to eye on what is to me a very critical issue. I don’t have answers for all of the other problems you brought up. I just wanted to be seen. I just wanted to be heard. I just wanted you to offer on social media the same compassion I know you would offer my family and I to our faces.
Because what I’ve learned in my life is this: anything- anything- that divides, or tears down, that severs relationships or hinders relationships from growing, is “ugly”. The shootings of these unarmed people is ugly. The rude, hateful comments, some from the church, dehumanizing these people and justifying their deaths, are ugly, too, regardless of how you feel about the cause or about other related or unrelated problems.
When I read some of those comments, I started feeling that pulling, that dividing, that tension. This is Ugly. My Grandma Said it’s Ugly.
But then…then I wrote some words last week and very shortly was overwhelmed by comments from people, from many of you, who cared. So many of you had compassionate, heart felt, encouraging, honest, BEAUTIFUL words. And when we went to church Sunday morning, we were greeted with love as we always are but people also said, “I read your post. I care about your words and I care about you.” At the end of service, my husband and kids were eventually waiting in the van for me to come out because so many wanted to stop and say, “We see you. We care.”
Do you know what happens when we start a conversation built on a foundation of compassion? When you, as a part of the body of Christ, adopt a permanent stature of empathy and caring, even for those who are nothing like you, even for those you can’t relate to and don’t understand, even for those you actually disagree with? Well, then you start to make something beautiful. In this case: a beautiful bridge.
If you want to build a bridge, you must first acknowledge the divide. You have to see the gap in order to fill it. Thank you for being willing to do both.
We see things differently. We feel things differently. That’s the divide. We are saved by grace and forgiven and loved. There’s the bridge. Any work that tears down this bridge is UGLY. By the grace of God, let’s make something beautiful.
P.S. For those of you who wanted a few more practical steps, stay tuned into my Facebook page later this week for a video invitation just for you!