I think we all know that person.
Whatever you’ve experienced, they’ve experienced something similar only theirs was worse. You cannot finish telling your story before they’re jumping in to one-up you. “Yeah, there was this time…”
That’s what it feels like when someone jumps into a conversation about “Black lives matter” to say, “Yeah, but all lives matter.”
Of course they do. But that’s not the needed conversation right now. I was tardy in renewing my car registration last month. I worried about getting a ticket. I didn’t worry about being killed for it.
I’m not an expert on the experience of being black in America. That’s why I need to shut my mouth and listen. I need to push myself to read things that make me uncomfortable. I need to push myself to read things that make me sad. I need to push myself to read things that make me angry because they reflect such injustice.
Sometimes we interrupt our friend’s conversation to jump to our own corresponding but worse tale of woe because it’s a distraction. It can be painful and hard simply to sit, listen and bear witness to someone else’s suffering. And yet, that is precisely what we are called to do. (In another blog post I tell the story of the power of very different people speaking and being heard.)
At the same time, we also need to listen to those charged to protect and to serve. I don’t know what it is to have to make a split second decision that can be the difference between life and death. I don’t know what it’s like to do a job that demands that I run towards danger, not away from it. I need to hear about political and budgetary issues that put police departments in situations in which they don’t want to be, because they really do want to do a good and just job.
What has heartened me in these last few days have been the stories of good, ordinary folks, black and white, who are reaching beyond their fears or our polarization to connect, hurting human to hurting human.
This week I’ve been thinking about the prayer of Saint Francis. May it be prayer for all of us:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.