14 books – part 1

I will say before we start that this isn’t an easy post to pen. And yet, in many ways, it’s been long stirring in my heart, knowing it needs to be written. “Needs” is a funny word here. Let me be honest; next to “lie,” “lay” and what actually is a “travesty,” “needs” may be the most misused word in the English language. The reality is there is too much selfishness in all of us. When we say “needs,” we should be speaking of no one other than self. And thus I am.

What I share today in Part 1 and in Wednesday’s Part 2 is simply my journey. I share no expertise nor any claims to have “it all figured out” or even anywhere close to most. Hear me. I am simply a student, craving to learn, deeply desiring to be part of a greater coming together.

A year and a half ago, I felt a pretty clear prompting. It was actually my only resolution on the eve of 2020; it was my answer to the question, “What would I be most disappointed about if I didn’t grow/change in that area in the year ahead?” The prompt was to read more. And while nowhere near the novels and books devoured by the Carol’s, Collin’s, and parental units in my life, it was a significant, insightful step.

… who knew then that there could be a few positives amidst all this Covid crud?…

And so read I did.

(A little insight known by those in my innermost circles… I can be a little nerdy in my literary pursuits. I much prefer nonfiction; in fact, next on my list is a 400 page work on cultural amnesia and expressive individualism. Did I mention nerdy?)

By spring of last year, I had enthusiastically ventured through an approximate dozen books; that’s good for me. Six of those books wrestled with ethnicity and race. Note: that was before the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

As our country then erupted in outrage and response, we witnessed many burst forth from their pandemic-partitioned bubbles to publicly protest. Some of those protests were healthy, honorable, and nonviolent; some were not. 

I am making no judgment on the prudence of any protest; hear me only in the acknowledgement that healthy and unhealthy exist. 

But as for me, on my journey, I knew I needed to learn more.

What I share now, without a doubt, is incomplete. It is an incomplete account of my learning. I simply, sincerely knew I needed to learn more, boldly confronted by the incontrovertible fact that my experience is not everyone else’s reality, and if I was going to fulfill what I wholeheartedly believe is the second greatest commandment for us all — to love another as ourselves — then I needed to understand more about ethnicity and race.

So I chose to sit. To listen. To sit and listen even with the uncomfortable. 

To hear stories — especially those different than my own.

And I chose to read.

This past week I finished my fourteenth book on ethnicity and race.

Notable, no doubt, is that I read from a diverse group of authors… black, white, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, politician, pastor, sociologist, male, female, left, right, younger, older, and even — different for me — fiction and nonfiction. It was a fascinating, insightful, life-giving pursuit.

Clearly, my experience is not everyone else’s reality. That, my friends, with all due respect, is something each of us would be wise to remember… black, white, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, male, female, etc. Oh, how I wish we would resist valuing one group over another!… no doubt such impedes us from loving all well.

With the trial set to begin tomorrow for Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis Police Department officer charged with the murder of George Floyd, I’d like to spend this week sharing a little more of what I’ve learned — like how and why we talk past each other, where we could grow, and other impressions. But allow me two humble pleas first.

One, a primary reason many quit pursuing and talking about racial and ethnic diversity and harmony is because it’s so easy to get wounded in the process. “Whatever strategy you try,” said one of the authors, “You will be criticized by somebody.” No doubt I will thus say something wrong. I ask here, therefore, that you know my heart; my heart is for all persons regardless of race, creed or color to feel honored in this space. If I unintentionally offend, please accept my sincerest apologies now; and let’s talk about it. That’s a conversation I’d love to have. As obviously, even when this is done, I will have more to learn.

And two, let me offer a brief reminder. Know that these posts — this work, my journey — are still incomplete. That’s part of what’s hard but also what’s so beautiful…

God isn’t finished working on any of us quite yet…

Respectfully… and looking forward to Part 2 (and 3)…