In My Bones

I’m on my walk. It’s a 3 mile trail on a hill. There’s a huge section on the downhill that runs along what I think of as “the bracken”—wetlands-y, bordering the woods, lots of overgrowth.

Just as I enter the bracken, I see a man coming towards me. He’s about a football field away, which starts my heart racing because it’s not much time to plan.

Plan what, you ask? Ha! No you didn’t, because you’re mostly women here. You know exactly what I meant: I’m alone and here comes a man.

My first thought was I didn’t bring Dasher. Not that Dasher would save me from anyone, but only our family, friends, contractor, the pool guy next door, our neighbors and the kids down the street know that. To everyone else he looks like a German Shepherd tied one on with a Doberman. But I didn’t bring him with me today.

This is the moment I take a good hard look at the bracken to my right. Which, hey look at that, slopes downward. How have I never noticed that before? One good shove, and I’m off the path and into the blackberries. No one would ever know.

I’m not helpless, though. I can see him coming. He’s wearing sweats, a hoodie and sunglasses. I remind myself to strike for the soft spots. Then I sink into my feet, ready.

YOU GUYS. I am just walking on a Monday morning at 9:00 am in my own town, but I now have a plan for the man who is walking towards me on the path.

And it is only because of what he does next that I even spend one second of my day unwinding this moment.  

With at least 20 feet to go before we meet up, he swings wide off the other side of the path, putting a good 15 feet between us as we pass. I am so flummoxed by this that I actually think “Bit much, COVID dude” before I realize he did it to make me feel safe.

It shocks me. I’m not scared of much, but as I let go of all the ways I prepared to cross paths with him, I know that the threat I felt is ancient and generational, bred into my bones and reinforced by 49 years of living. Women are not always safe alone with a man. Vigilance is required. It has nothing to do with this particular man and he knows it, because he has a mom, wife, sisters, daughters. He doesn’t take it personally. But he does move to make me feel safe.

I’m telling you this thing that you already know as women because maybe we have forgotten that other people have ancient, generational instincts bred into their bones too, from other threats that also require vigilance.

We need to remember. We need to give people space for their vigilance, acknowledge that the vigilance is legitimate, and then earn each other’s trust. It’s not asking too much. It’s how we begin to fix what’s been broken.

It was the work of 10 seconds for that man to make me feel seen, respected and safe. We can do this for each other.

Land of the Free

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I have said before that my Facebook friends are a carefully curated lot. So what I’m seeing regarding the football protests during the national anthem is pretty reasoned, rational stuff.

But I know from some of them that what’s out there in the general population is pretty scary stuff.

It’s all over the news that while most of the teams found ways to protest injustice by standing together, the fans in too many stadiums booed the president on the jumbotron when he made a special 9/11 speech, much as Bush was booed during his term.

Or that a local pastor in Alabama made this statement before a high school football game Friday night:

If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you

And the crowd cheered wildly.

I am proud to be an American and stand for the Pledge and the Anthem.

But I can stand while those who protest kneel. There is room for us both. I see them. I know their concerns are real. They are doing what they feel called to do, and for 240 years Americans have died to defend this very freedom.

We can’t decide who is worthy of the sacrifice. It doesn’t work that way. The blood was shed. The price was paid.

Sound familiar?

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Sunday at Church, where there are no coincidences, the theme of the Scripture readings was Mercy.

Exodus 32:7-14. 1 Timothy 1: 12-17. And Luke 15:1-32, the Prodigal Son.

Maybe that’s the problem, on both sides. We’re too much Self-righteous Older Brother, too linear, too worried about the scoreboard. We have to be more Forgiving Father and recognize that those who are taking themselves outside the circle are hurting, hungry, desperate to be seen and loved.

Outside the circle is never the solution. Too easy to say “Hey, they left!” Too easy to say “Hey, they pushed us out!”

The truth is somewhere in the middle, like it always is. And that’s where we meet to heal.

Grace Walking

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It isn’t often that grace walks around on two feet in this world. But grace is walking in Charleston.

Felicia Sanders played dead in a puddle of her son’s blood. He died. She survived to offer mercy to his killer.

Nadine Collier’s 70 year old mom went to that bible study and didn’t come back. Nadine offered forgiveness.

Bethane Middleton Brown’s sister was killed, leaving behind four daughters. But Bethane told the world “We are the family that love built. We have no room for hating.”

I don’t know if I could do what they did. Maybe, now that I have seen them do it.

A mother. A daughter. A sister.

There are some people calling these women weak, saying things will never change if we appear to accept and forgive the things that are done in the name of hatred, ignorance, bigotry.

But these women aren’t sending a message to men. They are talking to the evil that walked into their sacred house of God and tried to rob them of their faith.

And they are telling him that he failed.

Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

If you want to help the people of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC you can donate to these two funds, one to help the church members and one in honor of Reverend Pinckney. Or you can send an email of prayer and support directly to the church from the Contact US button on their website.