I’ve continued to grieve the complex race issues we’ve seen played out over the last month here in the US. I don’t understand it. It hurts to hear more news of more injustice: black men shot dead, white police officers shot dead. If I’m completely honest I’ve felt guilty for being white and I’ve felt relief for being white and then horridly ashamed for both of those feelings.
We need things to change. Systemic things. Big things. These are adaptive challenges and it’s going to take time for healing to happen. It’s also going to take proactive leadership, clear cross-community communication, reflective therapy for individuals and communities to work through their trauma. Quite likely it will require a complete overhaul of the justice system. But I think there are Little Things we can do while we advocate for the Bigger Things.
Last Sunday I drove my friend, Cindy, to the airport in Kansas City. On the way we stopped for supper at a Chipotle restaurant. There were no tables left so we saddled up to the bar table that butted up against the window. Right outside the window an extended hispanic family enjoyed their burritos. Babies were giggling, grandmas were smiling, mothers were wiping hands and fingers and faces, the men were eating. Next to us, to the right, sat two white police officers. To our left sat a middle aged black couple.
Cindy and I were midway through an intense dialogue. We didn’t miss a beat even as we settled into our high rise seats. We have deep hearts and deep connections and our conversation reflected that. Suddenly out of the corner of my eye I saw something. I put my hand on Cindy’s arm, as if pushing pause, to watch something unfold. The two police officers were finished their meal. On their way out of the restaurant the black couple stopped them. The man got off his stool and extended his hand to the policemen and I overheard him say, “We just wanted to thank you for your service.” The policemen were humbled and pleased and grateful. With emotion they thanked the couple for their gratitude.
It was a little moment but it was profound. The couple were intentional. They stopped eating, they turned, they made eye contact, the man stood and the couple extended their hands across a community divide, across a racially tense space to speak grace and thanks.
I haven’t been able to shake it. It might have seemed like a Little Thing but given the spot we’re all in here in the United States it struck me it really was a very Big Thing.
I’m certain many of us are engaging in the Little Things with very little fanfare. Last week two of my friends had coffee: one black, one white. At the end of their visit the black friend looked the white friend in the eyes and said thank you. She wanted her to know she appreciated their friendship, she was thankful the white friend hadn’t stayed away, she hadn’t avoided her. Yesterday it was 106 degrees out. I offered our black postman a glass of ice water. He declined. I insisted. He said no thank you but he also said, “It really is the thought that counts. No one has ever offered me anything before. Thank you so much.”
Those are also very Little Things. But while we work toward (and work we must) the Big Things I think it might serve us well to do as many Little Things as we can. Maybe then….maybe then under God’s kind care…we’ll experience the beginnings of healing in this great land.