"It's ok if something is different. It's ok if someone doesn't agree with you. As someone just reminded me, 'We can all sink or we all float, 'cause we're all in the same big boat.'
Today we have a choice. We have an opportunity. Will we jump at it?"
Abbie Smith on Jumping In:
Everyone has something to say.
Everyone has a story.
Everyone has a story.
Some stories get told more than others.
Our job here at United Way is to make sure voices and stories that aren't always heard find their way to the public square. We've really enjoyed bringing forward even just a few stories from our neighbors.
Black history month is about inclusion. It’s about recognizing the stories of people who have, historically, been excluded. Sometimes we celebrate accomplishments in those stories, and sometimes we mourn the tragedies.
But they are all someone's truth.
I have recently been working around in my brain the idea that two things can be true at the same time.
Seems simple enough....but all too often we create false dichotomies. If what I believe is true is true, then what you believe to be true...is false. Seems logical.
But here's a little secret: we're humans. We're the furthest thing from logical on the face of the earth. Maybe even the universe.
We're messy. We're emotional. We remember. We forget. We run an internal dialogue that's so far from reality that we starve ourselves to be prettier or cut ourselves to feel better. Does that make sense? Is that logical?
We treat the people closest to us the worst, and we worship people we don't even know.
We don't make any sense, and that's why two things can both be true at the same time.
Here's another secret: if you want to know someone else's truth, just ask them.
I'll share a short story about how this recently slapped me right across the face.
I minored in African American Studies in college. Learn a lot. Learned about stereotypes, archetypes, systemic racism, privilege, the civil rights movement, and so much more. I wrote papers, I took tests, I watched movies. I came to know that while I will never understand what it feels like to be African American, I can certainly know THAT I don't know what it's like to be African American....and that’s a really good first step.
But what slapped me across the face recently was that I learned, realized, recognized, I don't know, that while I may have studied the civil rights movement as history, there are people all around me who LIVED it. They literally lived through it, on both sides...on all sides.
There are stories that I don't know.
There are stories that shaped lives.
Stories that are memories of painful pasts.
Stories of painful presents.
Stories of illogical, emotional, messy humans that need to be told, need to be heard, need to be accepted as truth.
Simultaneous truth. Mutual truth. Is that a thing? I don't know. It is today.
We've been talking a lot at United Way recently about asking if you don't know something. Just ask! There is no shame in saying "I don't know." The shame comes in not asking, in not engaging, not finding the truth.
The big secret to finding out something you don't know is to ask.
Just this evening, randomly (or was it?), I came across a quote from Benjamin Franklin. "To succeed, jump as quickly at opportunities as you do at conclusions."
To say we are quick to jump to conclusions is the understatement of the century.
What we really need to be working on is jumping at opportunities.
In this case, the opportunity to connect.
To form real connections with our neighbors.
Next door neighbors, across town neighbors, work neighbors, church neighbors.
Are we really connecting?
Are we asking more questions than conclusions offered?
One of the papers I wrote for my African American Studies minor was on the role of music in the civil rights movement. Research for that paper led me to Songs in the Key of Life. I would argue, it's one of the top five albums in the history of the world. It's ok to disagree; it's still true for me...see what I did there?
As I sit here sharing this rambling story of mine, I find myself moved yet again, by the first track on that album: "Love's in Need of Love Today." Check out the lyrics right here.
I didn't say easy. I said simple.
"Hate's going 'round, breaking many hearts. Stop it, please, before it's gone too far."
It's that simple. We need compassion. We need love. We need listening. We need respect. We need acknowledgement of each others' truth.
I may seem like, or may very well BE, a silly Polyanna thinking we can solve all the world's ills with a little love and tenderness, but I’m ok with that. Because that's my story. That's my truth. And, honestly, the alternative is too great a burden to bear.
So jump at the opportunity to learn, to ask questions, to connect with someone new. Remember it's ok if something is different. It's ok if someone doesn't agree with you. As someone just reminded me, "We can all sink or we all float, 'cause we're all in the same big boat."