We are living in a chapter of a future textbook. We are living in a paragraph of an undergrad sociology essay on culture in America. We are living in a verse of a poem on hate and hurt. We are living in an episode of a news show, a random sitcom, or a drama series.
We are literally living in a history lesson. Our grandchildren will ask us to tell them about 2020…the riots and protests, the disagreements and leadership, the decisions and repercussions. They will sit in awe as we describe what we have experienced in the last 12 months. We will talk about innocent people losing their lives, groups of citizens coming together to fight a common cause, regular people standing up for what they believe…a year filled will various events and a myriad of emotions.
I don’t want to live in a society where the current mess is normal. I don’t want my children or your children to grow up in a society where the current mess is normal. It should not be normal.
Every single person has their own beliefs, customs, perspectives. Every single person has their own LIFE. Every single person is different. Every single person is uniquely and wonderfully made. Every single life matters.
Naturally, people gravitate towards others with similar beliefs, customs, traditions, schooling, jobs, and interests. People make circles with families that look like them, talk like them, vacation like them, are like them. I think sometimes it seems easier to make circles with those who have common interests and lives.
I grew up in a small southern town. My parents are still married. I went to public and private schools. I was brought up in a very traditional Lutheran Church. I went to cotillion. I played basketball in the local church program. We didn’t discuss politics, but I’m sure we voted straight-party Republican. My friends were from school, cotillion, or basketball. They looked like me, dressed like me, and had similar interests.
When I got to high school, I started branching out. I sought out different people. People who were in a different neighborhood, socio-economic status, or school. People who didn’t look like me, didn’t have the same traditions and customs as me, didn’t have the same values and future plans as me. Now, my parents fought that on my behalf. As an adult, it is not lost on me as to why they were so persistent. It’s also not lost on me why I was so persistent.
As I look around at my adult circle, I am very proud to say that most of my friends don’t look like me. They have various careers and jobs. They come from different backgrounds. They have experienced vastly different lives. My circle is like a dream-catcher, woven with different colors and types of threads…and it’s beautiful.
My background and upbringing is awesome and unique. It has helped make me who I am, and I am proud of it. My children’s upbringing is very different than mine. It is shaping their adult selves, and I hope they’re proud of it.
I am white. My husband is black. Between us, we have two white children, one black child, and one mixed-race child. All boys. Each child has experienced their own hardships and successes. Their friends are melting pots of kids, which creates rich learning experiences for each of them. Each of our sons is filling a bag of life experiences to carry with them through their lives, sure to shape the way they react and respond to situations, how they feel about things, and how they eventually raise their families. We are creating open-minded kids who are used to seeing, working and living with, and experiencing different people…just by living in our house.
As we sit in the recent aftermath of 2020, you can easily get overwhelmed by the replay of it all. The ups and downs. The waiting. The reactions after the waiting. The differences. The fighting. The news. The opinions. All of it can become a type of black hole, sucking you in…goading a reaction out of you, pushing you to chose a side, encouraging you to shut in and shut down.
Lots of people anxiously awaited the toll of the midnight bell signifying the change of 2020 to 2021. I get it. But I also see it as a time for change. Broaden your circles. Listen to people who aren’t like you. Talk to people who look different than you.
Be the change. Cause the change.