This past week has been SO incredibly hard in my city. We have come into the spotlight of the entire world, and it has been eye-opening. It has been hard to read the comments posted on social media this week, and not just completely break down sobbing because people are so cruel. It has been hard to listen to "Christians" bad mouth each other, and make judgements based on race instead of on God's love.
I wanted to write so many times this week, but I just found myself at a loss for words. You see I have friends with all kinds of different opinions. The thing is that I can listen to all of them. I can listen to all of them because I have learned how to listen. Am I perfect at listening? No, ofcourse not! But do I know that everyone has a story to tell...Yes!
In my travels overseas I have oftentimes been a minority in a foreign country. Sometimes it benefited me because people knew I was a white American, but other times it hurt me. Other times it hurt me to my core. A year of my life was spent with men making hissing noises, kissing noises, and yelling at me as I walked down the streets on a daily basis. It wasn't fun, it wasn't fair, and it made me feel worthless. That's part of my story. I have been told that a man couldn't marry me because I was the wrong color. That's my story. Things have been said to me that I won't even write here because they are so horrible, things that men wanted to do to me because I am white. That's also a part of my story. Those things don't define me, but they affect me.
When I see words that people write, words that are hateful and cruel, it makes me want to pick that person up and put them in a place where they know no one, where they are the minority, and where they have to rely on strangers to get around. When everything is stripped away that is familiar I think that helps you understand a little more, have a little more compassion, and a desire to get to know the stories of others.
We each walk in our own shoes. We are each afraid of rejection, loneliness, and discrimination. That looks different, to different people. My willingness to listen and actually hear someone else's story without trying to figure out what I want to say next is the key to making this world a better place.
This week there was a lot of hurt and pain. There were a lot of things said that I think didn't need to be said. There are still a lot of people that are hurt by the events, and probably will continue to be. But like what was said this morning in our sermon. There is no way that we will all agree. It is impossible in the fallen world we live in, but there is a possibility of reconciliation with each other. We have to be willing to be vulnerable and authentic. To tear away the barriers that want to divide us, open our ears and listen to the stories of those around us. That is when change, reconciliation, and new beginnings will appear.