Racial reconciliation through relationships

My heart and my mind have been in a scramble of thoughts and emotions for the past several weeks.

Parenting and working from home full time has been tough. As the leader of an organization with a mission to bring people together, having to intentionally be apart has taken a toll on my emotions and many others. Differing opinions on how to re-enter daily life is hard.

The entire world understands in a new way the serious impacts of social isolation & loneliness on mental, emotional and physical health. For so many people with disabilities and their families, this is everyday life. And it is hard.

We all have a better understanding of that and I hope we don’t return to so called “normal” but move forward with quarantine experiences with a distinct effort to stay in touch with those who will remain in some level quarantine by their choice or not.

Recent protests, demonstrations, riots and issues surrounding racism have highlighted a dark side of our world. The stories have further scrambled my thoughts and emotions. Anger, heartbreak, frustration, hopelessness, outrage at injustice. Questions are swirling in my mind and in my heart –

How did we come to this?
What do I tell my kids?
How can we do better?
How can we be more welcoming and inclusive to everyone?
What can we do to make people of color feel more welcome in our community?
What does it mean to be a white person?
What do we do next to stop the cycle of racism?
Who can I talk to about these issues?
So many people have made their voices heard in protests.

Where do we go from here?????

Recently, I watched this video and I felt a glimmer of hope and a possible answer to some of these questions.

Chatham-Savannah Citizen Advocacy is a 40-year-old community based non-profit organization that recruits, matches and offers support to over 110 local citizens in voluntary citizen advocacy relationships. Learn more about them here: https://www.savannahcitizenadvocacy.org/

The full video is 11 minutes. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, jump to 5:45 to hear Chuck Jones share a story about his friend Jafari. It’s the story of a true relationship built on trust, respect and openness.

First comes the initial invitation; introduction by a mutual friend.
Then, the second invitation – Jafari inviting Chuck into his life and Chuck inviting Jafari into his own personal journey.
Then slowly over time, a relationship develops.

These accepted invitations brought sweeping changes in Chuck’s life. Here are some highlights:

I have learned that when the struggle is hardest, I must listen the closest.

I have judged him, yet he has taught me to be accepting.

Walking beside Jafari helps me become the person I thought I was.

Chuck Jones

This is the type of relationship that changes – I mean really changes – people for life.

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Chuck and Jafari sharing a meal together in Savannah.

Are YOU willing to take this kind of risk?

It brings you to a point of vulnerability that will make you uncomfortable. It will lead you to places of self-evaluation that you don’t want to see. It will take lots of time, energy, effort and sacrifice. There are unknown factors, heartache and sadness waiting along the way.

We all want to skip to the end – like the unhelpful characters in the story of The Little Red Hen, we smell the bread baking and we want a slice. But, we have to walk through the entire process to truly appreciate the warm bread and we have to walk through the entire relationship with someone who is different from us to experience the depth of change that Chuck shares about.

So, I am here extending you that first invitation.

Come and let me introduce you to some of my great friends who have gifts to share like Jafari’s. You can see more unique relationships build through Citizen Advocacy here.

I’m also seeking an invitation – I want to deepen my relationships with people who have a different color skin than I do. Not in a shallow, “social media posting” way. In a genuine, seeking to understand way.

I want to better understand my own biases. I grew up in a family that openly talked about people of other races in a demeaning and devaluing way. I do not and never have shared those viewpoints and values. I believe – actually, I KNOW – that every life has value. My deepest desire is to live in a community and be part of a world where everyone is valued, included and empowered to live their best life. It’s my life’s work.

The world needs more covered dish gatherings with everyone at the table. Young, old, black, white, brown, rich, poor, with disabilities and without. There is a place for each of us if we can courageously choose to take the risk and come to the table.

So, if you want to accept either of my two invitations: to meet a friend of mine who is different from you (or who you perceive to be different) and the invitation to build a relationship with someone who looks different from me on the outside – I challenge you to get in touch with me.

I’m ready.

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