A poem for my children as I just passed another Mother's Day and another birthday: My baby moved away today and took grandbaby Mae. Her and Him and all their stuff North Carolina they now stay. I have another child here my son, my oldest boy. If you see him tell him please to bring his Mom some joy. My circle of support shrinks daily as I struggle to survive. My children have all flown the nest and have moved on with their lives. My son became a father, my oldest daughter now youngest son. My baby is a mommy now, our lives are on the run. Hustle, bustle, push, pull, drag catching up when we can. Long gone are the days of driving 'round in our minivan. A lot of love and work dumped in to them my childen, see Each one of them raised up I pray To be who they chose to be. My lonely heart breaks more and more each and every day For the babes that they once used to be now leave me in the gray. As I push back single tears of fear for troubles they might find I also pray they've grown up now to be happy, strong and kind. My days of "teaching" may be gone But now I am their friend. I now can undo errors made To avoid a bitter end. I've loved my children way too much not enough and in between. Part of what a family learns As we struggle to be seen. My kids and I will be alright No matter who flies where It's love that we all talk about And make sure that we share. My heart may still be broken and my tears yes, still may fall I've raised some strong-willed children, and I know that they will call. When comes the day they need their Mom When only she will do I'll be there on the other side ready with my "I love you". (c) 2017 Dawn Bennett
Mi gente is Spanish for “my people.” In a recent conversation with a Puerto Rican friend about the massacre in Orlando, at which 49 brown and black people were shot dead, there is strong opinion that the coverage of the event has been whitewashed. “Whitewashed” is a term used by cultures other than Caucasians and describes the stripping of all things organic and cultural to a particular event. It is not a positive term. It is not a positive action. I want to bring this conversation into its rightful place, because in some sense people of color (POC) have been stripped bare of the vigils that have been held in many places of faith over the last week.
I attended several of the ceremonies and I’d have to agree, there was a definite lack of representation from the brown and black communities. The sadness is exacerbated by the fact that it was a gay bar that was shot up and the vast majority of the victims were part of the LGBT+ community. This community, is mi gente, even though I identify as a cisgender, straight, white person. Some POC would not allow me to claim this, and in all sincerity it is a stretch, I agree.
Let’s take a moment and unpack these thoughts. Why are they mi gente? Well, because half my family and one of my children is gay and I am an ally, so we are all part of the LGBT+ family, together. They are mi gente because we are all children of God and loved unconditionally and equally by our Creator. So, our familial lines bleed together as our bodies and hearts bleed together. Why then is it a stretch for me to claim them as mi gente? Because to do that whitewashes and attempts to normalize the atrocity, as if I suffer as the brown and black community suffers. Which is simply not so. I do not profess to intimately know the culture and customs that white America has stripped from POC, those who invest their time, talent and treasure in the same economy I do.
The majority of the vigils that were held this week to mourn for Orlando where organized and attended primarily by white folks. Where are the brown people? Where are the black people? Why are they not standing up? Why are they underrepresented? It is not for lack of want, I can assure you. Many are in hiding, in fear of additional victimization and harm. (This I know because I met with them.) They are huddled together in private masses and vigils held in homes where safety is not an issue. (This I know because I met with them.) Some would argue and say that the brown and black community should be grateful that the white community “stepped up” to organize gatherings. And those I spoke to are glad and grateful the white community has mourned along with them.
As a white American, I want to ask where our support for our brown and black brothers and sisters is on a daily basis. How do we engage with their culture in a way that celebrates our diversity and agape love for one another? It’s a nice sentiment to come out in droves to show support after tragedy; But white folks, where is the support during times of peace and harmony? How dare we commandeer their vigils? How dare we profess to know the ache that lives in their homes and in their hearts? How dare we whitewash religious services with comfortability and practices that are common to the mainline, white, Christian community in hopes to ease their pain?
To mourn with mi gente, I need to learn their language of love, so I can love them how they need to be loved, not how I perceive it so. We must learn to love our multi-cultural country – embrace our diversity. We must learn to sit in our discomfort and listen to the pains that spill from our brown and black family. I do not write this post to divide us, but rather to unite us. While my words may seem harsh, in reality it is my attempt to raise awareness of the additional victimization that takes place when white America rushes in to solve an issue we don’t know anything about.
The white LGBT+ community is a sibling to the brown and black LGBT+ communities.
How can we make a difference then? We can listen. We can support. We can mourn by the side of our ethnic family. We are all one family, true, as we all come from one Creator. However, around half of the victims were brown and the other half were black. There was not a single white victim. Therefore, as a white American, to claim them as mi gente only works to ease my pain. If I am truly interested in showing up for my ethnic siblings, and sincerely desire to ease their pain, it must be on their terms. In the blurred lines of the kingdom of God they are mi gente, but the love they need at this time will acknowledge, respect, and appreciate our cultural differences.
Note: I have since moved into a different industry, but this this still good food for thought, pun intended.
Sometimes the food is not so bad at the bottom of the food chain. Sure, it’s not champagne and escargot. But, hey, you need a Twinkie and bag of chips every now and again to satisfy.
I was thinking about this at work today, as the clamor in the office rose up. I work in an often hostile work environment. It occurred to me, on this particular day, that being a bottom feeder is not always a bad thing. Take for instance this newly redesigned database which holds critical information on the taxpayers in my State. The darn thing was full of bugs, as the previous version was written in-house by our IT guys. Nice guys and helpful sometimes. So, as the story goes there was not enough justification to purchase a hi-tech system, one that would allow us to link nationally to a database that would all but eliminate error. So, our IT guys, yes the same folks who wrote the first version, redesigned a new one. Hmmm.
That’s not all. What really causes heartburn is that there was no rollout of static data, we used live data since we had the chance to test multiple scenarios in a live setting. Hmmmm. I sure hope those of you who are Techies are clinching your jaw and are a bit queasy right this moment. Anyway, today, I found a bug or two (yes, in the newly redesigned version) and inquired of the powers that be on how to resolve it. (This is where the Twinkie comes in). In my ignorance of all things IT, I failed to realize how temperamental program writers can be. Turns out there is a certain “personality” written into each program and it behaves differently in alternate settings. As I continued on in my search of the mistake, I asked for help. My co-worker overheard and graciously chimed in. Turns out he has a degree in programming but is not currently working in that role. The writer took issue of the bugs that were discovered and revealed. My coworker took advantage of an opportunity to share some of his knowledge and a few of us were, just there. In the periphery. In my case, looking cute (smiles). I thought to myself at one point, “Oh, how I wish I knew what they were talking about. It would be so helpful to be able to solve some of these issues on my own. Or at least be able to speak some informed words into the issue”. Wait! Stop right there lady. There’s a saying that goes something like this: You can’t be good at everything. I was grateful this day, because although I found the error, my job ended at reporting it. Clearly I have no idea how to fix it. Don’t need to. Not my job. That is someone else’s specialty. Someone else’s talent.
I learned that sometimes ignorance can in fact be bliss. Well, bliss may be an overstatement. But, it can be convenient so say the least. By my not knowing anything about programming, I was able to avoid an office argument, hostile negotiations, hurt feelings, frustration, perspiration, palpitation and provocation. The only real residual harm done to me is that the explosion happened in my office, at my computer where the information was displayed on the screen. There was a bit of clean up from the “food fight”, which is okay with me. I had a Twinkie and a bag of chips in my desk when it was all done. So, I sat back and did what many bottom-feeders do. I ate to my heart’s content. Enjoyed every bite.
It’s later in the month, later than I’d like it to be actually. I’ve been waiting for inspiration to give you something I felt was worth reading. It finally came today. It’s true, it’s real, it’s honest. It’s a page from my journal this morning. I know I’m not the only one in this quagmire, maybe that’s why I felt it’s worth reading. Happy Easter to all of humanity.
“It’s a Good Friday!
Abba, so much is changing, but you have stayed the same. The tomb is empty this morning. No one knows where you are or where you went.
This season of Lent has been so incredibly painful. I’ve been so far from you – and so close to you. I’m scared, I’m isolated, I’m exhausted, I’m angry, I’m so incredibly sad. I’m eager, I’m demanding, I’m questioning, I’m forgetful, I’m desperate. I have anxiety; I’ve traveled far and wide to find peace – to create peace – to upset peace – and to enjoy the peace. It’s Good Friday, and like the rest of the fold, I’m seeking because the tomb is empty and I don’t know where you went.
Ferguson is still looking for you. Naples says they have you, the golden roads are supposed to prove that. Nashville sings all about you, but the people are still dying of hunger and thirst.
Sometimes it’s hard for me to see you in everything and be grateful, because honestly, when I don’t get what I want (and the way I perceive I need it to be), I think you either suck or you’re looking at someone else’s life. I mean, there’s lots of us down here trying to figure this crazy shit out. Maybe you got me mixed up?
It’s supposed to rain here Sunday – I’m looking forward to that. Everything is better after some cleansing rain. The sun will surely rise and shine, that’s all it knows how to do. Thanks for that too.
Thanks for never taking your eye off me. I’ll try to reciprocate that a bit better today. I love you.”
Happy New Year! For some 2016 has been declared as the turn-around year. For others, it will be a year of traveling in the same direction, only deeper, and perhaps at a faster clip. And, that may or may not be a good thing. Time will tell.
For me, I’m hoping for a bit of both actually. You see, for me, 2016 is going to be a year of great change. And it won’t all be good change. Or will it? Change is one of the only guarantees in the Universe. We can embrace it, reject it, rail against it, work in harmony with it, question it or just observe it. Whatever we choose to do, change is inevitable. In Ecclesiastes 3:4, the Bible talks about a time for all things under the sun. I believe this is true and I also believe that not all change is looked upon as welcomed. For part of this year, I will have that attitude I expect.
We are each on a private journey to discover who we are, in the midst of where we are. Where we are physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. We must learn to look upon this journey as a necessity rather than a burden, even when the journey is through a dry and weary land. Being a human being is the most excruciating journey we will ever encounter. This is a strong statement and I admit that. But, selah (from Hebrew, meaning, “pause and think on this”). If we are a people whose belief and trust are in something or someone bigger than us, then we are sure to resonate with that infamous lyric so eloquently stated by Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just might find, you get what you need.” Believers in God will undoubtedly admit that there are times we wonder where the hell God is in a particular situation. When we can’t see the forest through the trees. Sometimes we can’t even see the trees. But God has clearer vision. That’s where our hope lies.
The journey to the center of our birth is a requirement for all of us, to figure out where we came from, where we are and more decidedly, where we want to go. In 2016 many of us will travel through fire to get to our next place. For some, a smooth sail down a quiet stream will be in store. Others will be led into a desert and will likely feel the cracked ground beneath their feet and wonder again, where the hell is God? But, have no lingering fear. Notice, I said lingering. Fear is inevitable, even with the good changes that will come our way.
I think it’s fair to say change and fear live in tandem.
(I know you’ve heard of the fear of failure. But, have you heard of the fear of success?)
One important adoption for the coming year of change will be to acquire some type of calming discipline. For some yoga, others running or extreme sports will be needed. Yet for others, prayer and meditation. (Oops! I accidentally typed medication….I corrected the typo, but realized that for some it may very well include medication…and if that’s what it takes, that’s okay too, under a doctor’s supervision of course.) The important thing here is that the journey to the center of your birth will require from you the hardest part of the journey…a decision.
A few years ago a great philosopher gave me some life changing advice (okay, it was my older brother actually). He said, “Everyone else has an opinion, you have a decision.”
Here I am again this year looking at some continuing big-life changes. As I recalled that advice, I believe it is still powerful and still true. My decisions may only make sense to me. Your decisions may only make sense to you. To others they may look like delusion or risky. That’s their opinion. I have to decide what it takes for me to be able to travel my journey (and so do you).
As you look over your new 2016 calendar, you’re only about seven days or so in. You’ve got about another 355 days or so of change waiting for you. So what’s it going to be? Embrace? Reject? Question? Rail? Walk in harmony? Observe? You decide. Let the naysayers and haters have their opinions. Let the loved ones and supporters have their opinions. There’s nothing you can do about what they think of your circumstance or your decision to act (or not).
They have an opinion. YOU HAVE A DECISION.
I’d love to tell you to stand tall and face your fears! To roar like a lion! To fight, fight fight! But, the best advice might just be to shut the hell up and let time pass. To cry and lick your wounds in private. To pray and just keep hoping in a brighter day. See, I just have an opinion too. I also have a decision, and it’s no less scary than yours. Being a writer doesn’t grant me any special passes, only a vessel to talk about my life on a public platform, and hope that another beautiful human is somehow inspired.
The journey to the center of your birth never ends. The journey started before you left the womb and it will continue until you return to the Dust. If you don’t have the moxie to be brave today, don’t fret. Bravery is a relative term (the magazines and media will tell you otherwise though). If you need to retreat today, please do. If you need to run and rage, do so (just don’t hurt anyone else in the process). If you need to stand up for yourself, stand. If you need to sit quietly, sit. There is a time and a season for everything under the sun. Just remember, it’s your journey to the center of your birth. We all have an opinion and we all have a decision. Do what your Spirit calls you to do. Be well. Be loved. Love.
Be the most authentic version of you you can be today. Don’t lose hope in a brighter tomorrow though. Hope is a vital supply needed for the journey. Find your hope, keep your hope. It’s our birthright.
As I drive down the interstate toward Knoxville, I am caught in my thoughts about the inbound traffic directly to my left.
As the cars have piled up, four lanes wide and going on eight or nine miles now, I began to think about what those people think about as they poke along the highway.
The interesting thing is as the newcomers approach the traffic jam, they have no idea of what is in store in front of them. I on the other hand, know full well what is in store for them, because I just spent the last several minutes driving past it. Multiple accidents, police lights, wrecker trucks and lots of people pulled over every which way.
That got me thinking about life. My life. Your life.
We don’t know what is ahead of us, but yet we join the traffic in an effort to move forward in our life toward our destination. We don’t know how long it will take us to get there. And we don’t know any of the future barriers that could try and get in the way of us reaching our destination.
It doesn’t stop us though. We still get in the car, put on our seatbelt, crank up the music and drive. We do it every single day. We wake up with hopes and dreams about what is in store for our day today.
We don’t know any more about our journey today then we knew yesterday. Well, that’s not entirely so. Yesterday is behind us and we can now see the good decisions and the poor decisions that we made that may or may not contribute to today’s journey. That’s part of the human experience. Journeying out, venturing into unknown territory.
Risk is involved and there is no way to get away from it.
That leaves us largely dependent upon our society around us. There is no way to get away from that either; however, it is our responsibility to decide what avenues to take.
Boundary setting is one such avenue. A healthy set of boundaries about what is allowable and what is not will help us determine what type of decision we want to make on our journey today.
And just like the people driving in inbound traffic, we are on a journey of outbound traffic. The journey is still ahead. The signs are posted. The choices are there. It is up to us to put our foot on the pedal and drive. If we take a wrong turn, turn around. If we can’t turn around, we can get off at the next exit.
In either instance, we will have multiple opportunities to change the course of our day.
Enjoy the ride, life is about the journey.