In a particular African tribe when someone goes spiritually astray, they form a circle around that person and tell them stories of their life and the good things they've done from their birth until present. Isn't that absolutely beautiful?! It is such an intentional act of connection and compassion. It is an act that refuses to leave the impoverished person to float in and out of their own false sense of self.
I have 5 children who are all at different developmental stages, and sometimes the weight of these differences drive me mad. They annoy each other, they fight, they behave like savages. It can become so easy to overlook who they really are, and just see what is. While my children aren't spiritually astray, it's true that they forget who they are, especially while wearing the degradations of their siblings, and the impatience of their mother.
What if instead of commanding the bickering to stop, we joined hands and spoke into each other's lives? It's not really the act of correction that creates receptivity in our heart. Correction merely calls for behavior to change without digging to see what the root of that behavior attaches to. What if instead of regurgitating some rote and meaningless regulations, we actually looked deep into each other's hearts and met each other there? In our humanness, with the understanding that we all behave worse when we feel bad about ourselves.
I need to dig deep and remind my children why they're loved and who they really are when they've forgotten the way. I need my children to tell me why I am a good mother in those moments when I've misplaced my patience. We all need to feel that powerful connection that comes when hearing "you're good."
It's my responsibility as their mother to be the softness that they can fall into after a hard day, To encourage them through the worst, their worst. The only way that I can do that is by consciously focusing on who they truly are, and keeping that before them (and myself) always. They must get to a point when they know their worth so deeply, that they wouldn't dare disturb another's.
I've accepted this challenge for my children, this daily habit of connection. I want to escape the negative cycles that can bleed us through the day. I want to engage with them in a way that will forcibly adjust what I focus on, encouraging us all into healthier behaviors. I believe that this practice, no, this art of seeing, will divine a powerful shift into my family dynamic, one that will align the heart AND the behavior, igniting both peace and truth into a deeper and more lovingly connected tribe.
Nobody needs to say it. We all feel the darkness that we're teetering at the edge of. It isn't about Charlottesville, because that incident didn't happen overnight. It was birthed out of an environment of archaic thinking; from the breeding ground of white privilege and superiority. In a way, nothing has really changed at all, except that people are getting braver about what they reveal in the light. And what we saw in Charlottesville was big and bold and effectually frightening.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (a civil rights advocacy group), there are 917 active hate groups operating across the country in our current year. 917! That may surprise some people, but it somehow didn't really surprise me. Just because slavery is illegal and there is desegregation does NOT mean the ideology of white supremacy was laid to rest alongside of discriminatory laws.
It's easy to ignore racism when we can say we've had a black president, and it's much harder to recognize racism when it isn't wearing a hood and traipsing across the lawns of minorities. We've moved from a violent and explicit prejudice, to a covert, subtle, nuanced form of separatism and prejudice that is much easier to deny, to ignore, and is therefore unequivocally more dangerous. Charlottesville isn't shocking, or atypical thinking, it is a more radical form of what a lot of people already believe in their hearts.
It's mortifying to see that our country seemingly digresses to outdated and inhumane thinking, but the silver lining can be that this radical exhibition of hatred can wake the rest of the country up. It can stimulate introspection and conversations and confessions that I don't think have ever happened. It's terrifying to have a light shine so brightly on our country's skeletons, but it creates an incriminating distinction between what is light and what is dark.
The light doesn't just show the ugly, it also embodies hope. A hope that we can stop denying and ignoring injustice, that we can realize our biases, question our beliefs, and challenge our hearts to love deeper than we have in the past. We all receive and reflect light differently. We can use this moment of truth to point us in the right direction - to turn from our horrendous mistakes, and to create a healthy pattern of light for those that come after.
I saw a ghost today with salt and pepper hair, sitting behind the steering wheel of a large, white work van. Sitting with that posture that I could recognize from worlds away. I saw the man who hurt me when I was a young, tender girl. The man who turned a confident, happy person into a haunted house.
It's been about 16 years since I've seen him. The last time being when I looked into his chilling blue eyes before a courtroom full of family and strangers, and unloaded all of the feelings that had been locked into a dungeon for almost a decade. No remorse, no sorrow, but an empty and vile glare that warned me of my unforgiving confessions. I lived in paranoia of ever seeing him again.
He spent 5 years in prison, yet he was irrationally omniscient in my mind. Although his presence was terrifying when he was in scope, it was at least fairly predictable. I knew his work hours, his patterns, the slyness of working around my family's timetable - he had restrictions. But now that I couldn't see him, I anticipated him in every alley, at every red light. So I saw him in every man with a thick build around 5'10". When I passed any blue work van, I slumped down in my seat, hoping he wouldn't see me, know my vehicle, or worse, follow me.
For years I dreamed of him circling my home, waiting for me. Dreams of him standing beside the fresh remains of my loved ones, promising me my time would come. The years were dark, my free years were darker still. I avoided my home town at all cost. I wouldn't even drive past his old hang outs, or the gas stations he frequented. It was as if he had served his time, and now had permission to move on. I never had that luxury. He haunted me for most of my life.
Time has passed, more healing has come, and I visit my home town several days a week. I work there. He lives close, and I know that. I no longer hurry in and out of town like I used to. I don't even think about him every time I'm there. So when I pulled up to that four-way stop and I saw him opposite of me, my heart raced, I gripped the steering wheel a little harder, but I didn't cower down in my seat or worry that he now knew what I drove. I stared in his direction, turning my entire head his way as we passed each other. I know what he drives now, and I don't care. My life is turning around, and he harbors all of the memories of what he's done - the criminal record that will inhibit jobs, the relationships it will impede, the parents who keep their children a little closer, and I have to think that now, now I am his ghost.