the pursuit and the question

Thanks to the many who have read or reached out to discuss what you are earnestly processing at this tense moment in time. I sincerely appreciate your sharing and sharpening. I also appreciate agreement and disagreement — and all the landing spots in between — recognizing each sharpens perspective.

Hence, witnessing the good, bad and ugly all wrapped up in the expressions of our perspective, many have wondered what individually, we can do now… 

“How can I be a positive, effective influence in my corner of the world — however big or small that may be?”

I suggest our individual next step comes via answering a harder question. Prior to sharing, allow me to encourage three intentional pursuits that are necessary first… that is, if we want to be both positive and effective…

One, pursue the different. 

This goes for all of us… What am I doing to learn about the person who doesn’t look like me? … who hasn’t grown up like me? … who hails from a different generation?… One of the more profound developments that happened for me personally this spring was that when COVID-19 hit, I felt inspired to learn more about race relations. I then read 7 books from 7 authors and angles — black/white, male/female, Christian/atheist, liberal and conservative. That was all before Ahmed Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. It’s amazing to me how God prepares us for distinct moments in time. Pursuing the different enhances perspective.

Two, pursue proximity

Books are great — movies, documentaries, too, although be aware of embedded, often unpublicized, potentially impure agendas. But if we’re going to understand another culture, ethnicity, or generation, we need to get closer to them… Who am I hanging out with? Who am I inviting to speak into my life? Is everyone I befriend just like me? Do they all look like me, think like me, or vote like me? … Pursuing physical and emotional proximity unveils the reality that different, legitimate perspectives exist.

And three, pursue wisdom. 

Who or what makes you wiser? Those who are historically considered among the world’s wisest are persons who have recognized that wisdom is not a one time accomplishment; it’s a journey. They also know that wisdom comes not from their own eyes. It comes from pursuing something more omniscient than us. That’s where the intentional seeking of the great big God of the universe comes in. Pursuing wisdom is vital, as it’s the only source that consistently implores the loving of all as opposed to the loving of most.

So what can we do? How can we make a difference? How can each of us be both positive and effective?

My strong sense is mere adherence to any media/social media screaming lacks effectiveness. I thus believe we must first answer a harder question…

“What’s it like to be on the receiving end of me?”

What’s it like? What does someone who hears what I say, reads what I write, sees what I do, how do they respond?

Does my behavior inspire and encourage?

Or does my behavior denigrate and discourage?

That’s a pretty sobering question… am I aware of how others respond to me? … what do they think and feel?

May we resist the temptation to argue it doesn’t matter how others receive us. If not, one could easily contend we don’t really care about effectiveness… 

So I keep asking…

“What’s it like to be on the receiving end of me?”

That’s enough to ponder for a day.

Respectfully…

AR

and then there was hope…

Hey, it’s me again. I know we’ve been talking a lot lately. Thanks for getting it. Thanks for the times you totally get it, even when I’m not doing any talking… or listening either. That tends to be more my issue. I’m not always good at listening and letting you direct, guide, gently nudge or give me counsel. Sometimes it takes maybe one of those divine two-by-fours to figuratively smack me over the head. Sometimes my passion or opinion — because I feel so legitimately, strongly — totally takes over. I know. You get that, too.

But wow… what a perfect storm… 

We were all secluded… encamped in our homes with local economies shut down, just beginning to reopen. Many lost their jobs or had them furloughed. All the spring pomp and circumstance was simply wiped from the calendar. My oldest’s college graduation… my youngest’s high school graduation… We had so much planned! We can never get those moments back.

It’s been almost as if these past three months have been too much to handle. I know that’s not true — but it feels that way. This has been one of the harder seasons of life for so many — as we were both physically — and emotionally — quarantined. We were burning to burst out. Thank God we burst out for something good!

The good?

Of course you already know. Nothing happens here that you are unaware of or have for some reason allowed. I don’t always get that; I know you could put a stop to anything if you wanted, but my pondering sense is you sometimes allow the awful to exist in order to get our attention. We can get distracted pretty easily. 

I feel like the globe has finally grasped the self evident truth that all men, women, children — creed or color — are created equal. That you show no partiality. And therefore, because you don’t, neither should we. 

That has been true since in the beginning. It’s also one of the things that drives me crazy about the current two party system… Each party devalues someone — they count some life as lesser. And the rest of us — because we are sincerely passionate about a singular issue or person or more — a like or dislike — even a hatred or love — we jump on the impious bandwagon. We make unholy alliances it seems, never taking the time to refute and dissect the unholy.

And while I understand that politics and government are tools you’ve allowed to create societal order, our politicians — just like the rest of us — are imperfect. They don’t always tell the truth; sometimes they lie. The end often justifies the means. They routinely hurl insults at each other, treating dissenters as enemies. They have thus ignored the impurity in their own. And it’s getting worse. 

That’s actually one of the things that’s given me hope this week…

The politicians weren’t leading; the people were. The politicians were finally listening to us — as opposed to simply expecting us to listen to them. I love it. This isn’t a black/white issue. It’s not a left/right issue. It’s a human issue. Our politicians have done us a disservice by forgetting that, and simply attempting to forge others to their partisan tribe. Sorry. That feels disrespectful. They want me to be like them. Lord, I just want to be like you.

My sense is that if we can keep the specific, political party agendas out of it, we can make a difference. The world can finally get that all have equal value… that all are created equal… that all are endowed with certain unalienable rights. We can’t leave out any of those aspects. Otherwise we will forget once more.

We need to learn to love each other. Truly. We need to learn to see as you see and think of absolutely no one as lesser. Right now, though, our friends who are persons of color are hurting. And everything I read about you is that you have a heart for the hurting. We have work to do. Where do we start?

Humble ourselves. Yes, that’s step one. Humble ourselves and pray. I hear the distinction; that doesn’t say “humble someone else.” It says to humble me.

That means no violence. That means listening. Learning. Lamenting and forgiving. Protests get attention; peace and prayer are essential. 

A tangent note, if I may… Every generation has its strengths and weaknesses; they aren’t so much right or wrong as opposed to how that generation has reacted and responded to the circumstances that have shaped their formative years. Today I give thanks for the younger generations… the way you’ve wired them with a care for causes and fearlessness has led much of the current way.

I know. You get it. But then, you always do.

You get us. Always.

Respectfully… always…

AR

can we handle the conversation?

My sense is there’s a lot of talk right now. Everyone has an opinion. 

Many want to tell us how they think. Many want to tell you how to think. Many others want to go bury their head in the sand, forgetting the year of 2020 and all its unprecedented peril thus far. Still more demand no one actually be allowed to bury their head in the sand…

“Speak!” we say. “Speak!”

But how do we speak in a society when we’ve become so poor at honoring those who aren’t like us?

My sense is we are pretty terrible at empathizing with the different…

… and loving our neighbor well.

No doubt part of the entire problem in our current frictional, fractious state is that most of us have selectively chosen who we will and won’t love. We’ve been lured into the foolish false reality that in order to love someone well, they need to believe, behave and vote just like “me.”

(Note: I have yet to meet any person who believes, behaves and votes just like me.)

I therefore find myself at a bit of loss today. I want to discuss our country’s current condition, but I’m also fearful we can’t handle the conversation. Why? Because we don’t actually know how to speak.

So I again humbly employ the art of asking questions. Remember: the question mark is the only punctuation piece which invites a response. Exclamation points — shouting — simply isn’t effective. Let’s instead invite others to respond and interact. Let’s each listen and learn.

Hence, 10 heartfelt questions…

(1) How did the cultural shutdown — staying inside for months — impact the intensity of the response to the death of George Floyd?

(2) How can a generation which has grown up on their phones and in front of their screens learn how to look another in the eye and have respectful, interactive dialogue?

(3) In social media’s society — a culture in which 280 characters qualifies as a conversation (up from the original 140) — how can we learn to actually listen?

(4) How come so many always point at someone else — what they need to change?

(5) Where do I need to grow and change? … none of us have it all figured out — right?

(6) Is it possible to believe each of the following:

a. George Floyd was murdered and the policemen responsible should go to jail.

b. When there’s police wrongdoing, there’s a lack of accountability in place to deal with such matters.

c. Mass protests are warranted and legitimate.

d. Looting and burning businesses are not legitimate and the persons responsible should go to jail.

e. Racism, implicit bias, and prejudice are harmful to American society.

(7) Am I justifying any of the above as lesser?

(8) How am I educating myself on the history of race relations in our country? Am I reading a variety of authors and perspectives? … from persons who are black, white, male, female, liberal, conservative, Christian and non-Christian?

(9) Where is racism individual and where is it structural? And if I’m believing only one or the other, why? 

And (10 ) Am I dwelling in an echo chamber, never being exposed or encouraged to empathize with one who is different than me? (… am I actually cutting off/out the different? Am I insulating myself from other valid perspective, forgetting that other valid perspective exists?)

I have more questions, of course; there is much to ponder. 

Note: we ponder in order to love our neighbor well. 

Respectfully…

AR

what we most need now

Today I will write for just me. My sense is we often tend to write and speak for others, telling them where they need to change. I understand. It’s easier. It’s also less effective. The most effective maturing comes not from the demanding of another, but rather, from a sober look at self.

When I witness the loss of life, I grieve. I lament the death of George Floyd. I lament the death of those who’ve gone before him. I lament injustice and the death of the innocent. I am dismayed by the riots and resulting unrest. I find myself humbly but deeply craving what our country most needs now. I find myself first wrestling with three sincere questions…

One… Who Matters?

Life means existence…

  • Black lives.
  • Immigrant lives.
  • The lives of the elderly, disabled or unborn.

Sincerely seeking to understand — no judgment — what existence have I justified as being lesser?

Two… Is It OK to Be Silent?

Our silence has the potential to perpetuate the acceptance of evil, unethical, or abusive behavior…

  • In relationships.
  • In race relations.
  • In pop-culture, society or politics.

What evil or unethical behavior am I accepting?

Why am I selectively silent?

Do I ever choose the lesser of two evils, ignoring that such by definition, is still evil?

And Three… What Am I Omitting in My Outrage?

  • Outrage without principle is hysteria.
  • Outrage without compassion is shame.
  • Outrage without truth is manipulation. 
  • Outrage without integrity is sanctimonious.
  • Outrage without action is incomplete.

How can my outrage be used for good?

And is it ok for another’s outrage to be different than mine?

I wonder…  if each human existence is created in the image of God, how can I treat anyone as lesser? How can I not believe in their equal value and worth? Am I too blind to see how God feels about each of us?  

I’m sobered… pained by what’s happening across the country — the hurt in the hearts of persons of color, the division that far too many on all sides brazenly continue to sow. I thus settle in a singular place, crying out to God as to what our country most needs now. I settle here:

“If my people… respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health…”

The challenge of race relations isn’t something that I can simply be silent about nor shout about at others; neither effectively changes the individual human heart. The only way I know to make lasting, permanent change is to submit to something bigger than me. God is god and I am not.

What does God say?

If I…

  1. Humble myself
  2. Pray
  3. Seek him — recognizing he has wisdom that I do not; and…
  4. Turn — accepting no more evil and unethical behavior

Then…

God will listen. He’ll forgive. And he will heal our land.

As I observe varied perspective from places seemingly big and small — from the tears in my friends’ eyes to the destruction on the streets of Minneapolis and in the shouts on social media — I’m convinced of one truth most of all…

We are a land in need of healing. That’s what we most need now.

Respectfully…

AR

unwholesome what?

Respecting all people, respecting where they are — recognizing each of us are in different places and spaces — regardless of faith perspective, many of us follow biblical teachings…

  • Thou shalt not murder…
  • Thou shalt not steal…
  • Love your neighbor…
  • Care for the poor…
  • Don’t be selfish…

At the very least, we have adopted the above as wise moral measures.

In light of the current corona crud — and how it seems to have brought out the best and the worst in us, often in surprising ways in surprising people — I was struck by a new teaching this week:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

I’ve dwelled on such before. As an advocate for respectful dialogue, if we did not practice the teaching, our integrity would be in obvious question. However, there was one embedded phrase that stood out to me this week, as I contrast the teaching with a culture which doesn’t always seem very moral and wise to me.

It wasn’t the idea of unwholesome — and I speak not of a vulgar or more coarse vocabulary. I more mean unhelpful… (I’ve said some pretty embarrassingly, unhelpful things sometimes…)

It wasn’t the idea either of saying only that which is helpful for building another up or encouraging them…

And it wasn’t still surrounding the purpose of the discipline — that our words would benefit those who hear them.

No. I was struck by the keen insight in the phrase “according to their needs.”

Stay with me here for a moment…

How often do we proclaim to another — publicly or privately — “You need to hear this!?”

How often do we aver, “I just need to say!?”

How often do those who lead or want to lead blazon, “This is for your own good!?”

How often do we hide behind our social media keyboards, insulated from the inherent wisdom of face-to-face encounters, insisting, “You don’t know what’s good for you!?”

I suppose we could thus say this a few more ways…

How often do we assume we know what’s best for another?

How often am I instead projecting my own persuasion onto him or her?

Or perhaps better said…

How often am I ignoring the wisdom that for what comes out of my mouth to actually benefit another — whether public or private — whether via my keyboard or face-to-face — even behind today’s much-worn masks — how often do I forget the wisdom that my words should be based “according to their needs”?

… in other words, not according to mine.

Just another day… thinking out loud… always desiring the pursuit of what’s wisest and best…

Respectfully…

AR

maybe I’m crazy…

Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe I’m not. But I’ve seen good things come of this unprecedented time. I also know it’s been hard and unexpected.

Through my personal, professional, counseling, mediation, and other multiple encouraging efforts… through witnessing those who’ve had birthdays, graduations, celebrations, and have intentionally commented how this time has been like no other… so different… acknowledging the inability to gather and to touch… to touch, I say again. Still people have said what they most wanted to say… through drive by’s, acknowledgements…. we’ve been more deliberate in our wishes and words.

Hence, the Intramuralist continues to ask questions… remembering that the question mark is the only punctuation piece that invites a response…

… willingly… wanting… expectantly…

And so in my desire to continue to handle the quarantine in a wise way, recognizing each of us — no matter our age or stage — has an opportunity to grow, I ask 10 simple questions…

… humbly … always…

1. Is it ok for us to have different levels of outrage in response to all this corona crud?

2. Are any of us in a position in which we can tell everyone else how they need to respond?

3. Does it make sense that there’s a difference in how people in different parts of the county respond? In other words, should we expect the same in jam-packed New York City compared to Big Sky, blue Montana?

4. What good have you seen during this time? Is there anything that’s still amazing?

5. Who are you putting your trust in? … a person, government, something better and more?

6. What will actually be better as a result of this? Can you see anything better and more?

7. If the great big God of the universe has allowed this crazy time to exist, believing he’s big enough and so much more powerful and able to stop all now if he wants to, what might he want each of us to learn and glean from this situation? What is that? Is there something?

Then I must also ask…

8. Where have I judged another person, actually finding fault in them, because their approach and their emotion and reaction to this is different than my approach and my emotion?

9. Was my judgment wise? … or was I thinking I’m capable of superseding the role of the great big God of the universe?

No man is perfect. No one is right in all they think and believe. Am I humble enough to acknowledge such?

And one more Q…

10. In ESPN’s recent, totally awesome “Last Dance” documentary, detailing the end of Michael Jordan’s NBA career, they say that Michael never allowed what he couldn’t control to get inside his head. In this crazy time, that seems totally applicable— do I recognize that?

Where do I let things inside my head that I can’t control?

Where do I lash out inappropriately on social media?

And where do I then treat others wrongly because they aren’t responding as I am?

Hmmm… 

I’m thinking I’m maybe not so crazy…

… even though each of us have so much more to learn…

Respectfully…

AR

jerks

As has been stated here, one of my resolutions for 2020 was to read more books. Thank you, COVID-19, for allowing me to check that box off so early in the year.

Currently in the middle of book #15 — which I’m not quite ready to disclose, as I’m not enough of the way through to fully endorse — it’s a book about not being a “jerk” when discussing politics. Suffice it to say, I like it.

For the purposes of clear communication, allow us first to define the word “jerk.” Dr. Stephanie Sarkis, a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, offers 6 reasons in Psychology Today why some of us may have (gleefully or not so gleefully) earned this title:

  1. You only talk about yourself.
  2. You tell offensive jokes or use offensive language.
  3. You’re pushy and intrusive.
  4. You’re mean.
  5. You show disrespect for others and their opinions.
  6. You whine and/or complain.

Lest to ensure I don’t violate the Intramuralist’s desire to never point more fingers at another than self, to be frank, many days I have done one, two, or maybe even — ghastlyall of the above. Some days I have been a “jerk.”

Thankfully, there is always more that defines each of us than those unflattering moments — a truth we often, unfortunately forget when pointing fingers.

So allow me to offer the wisdom of articulate author Eugene Cho — also the founder and visionary of “One Day’s Wages,” a grassroots movement focused on alleviating extreme global poverty. Cho encourages two thoughts/questions to ask and keep in mind when discussing politics with another — that is, if we don’t want to be a “jerk”:

  1. Help me understand what you believe.
  2. What brought you to those conclusions?

Friends, it does not matter the topic.

Look, no less, at this week’s trending topics…

  • To re-open or stay shut down…
  • Should we wear a mask in public?
  • What about when a vaccine becomes available? Can government mandate we all take it?
  • How much money should government spend to help the people? …the states? How in debt can we go?
  • I can’t focus on corona. I’m still shaken by the awful injustice that happened to Ahmaud Arbery.
  • I simply can’t stand Trump. In fact, I hate him.
  • Is Joe Biden the answer? His cognitive decline is glaring.
  • And Pelosi? Don’t get me started.
  • Then there’s Michael Flynn, Elon Musk, Tara Reade, Harry & Meghan… so many people I’m not sure I want to pay attention to.
  • And the Supreme Court… multiple decisions are coming soon. Great. One more thing to fight about.

So let me suggest we don’t… we don’t fight… that we intentionally avoid being “jerks.” After all, I’ve never known a “jerk” who was thought to have influenced the world in wonderful ways. Let’s instead keep the above thoughts/questions in mind. I hear you. I get it; it’s hard. Agreed. Note the added encouragement from Cho:

“This requires being good listeners. People who met Pope John Paul II throughout his life remarked about what an intense listener he was. It seemed that nothing else existed to him when he engaged with someone. Have you ever spoken with someone like that? If you have, I’m sure you can picture them right now and recall how they made you feel.

In any conversation, political or otherwise, each of us can choose to give the gift of listening to others. That’s good news for the future of our world.”

… giving the gift of listening…

Time to finish the book. Suffice it to say, I like it. 

Respectfully…

AR

will we repeat (or learn from) history?

“Without consensus, there is no consent — that’s almost a redundancy: The two words come from the same Latin root meaning ‘agree,’ but each has its own special role in the political lexicon. We speak of ‘consensus’ as a generally agreed-upon fact or set of facts, often with the qualifier ‘expert’ or the mock-qualifier ‘elite,’ but we consent to a course of action, a regime, or a state, which can deploy force legitimately only with ‘the consent of the governed.’ That’s… Democracy 101.

When you lose the ability to forge consensus, you begin to forfeit consent, and effective governance becomes difficult if not impossible — as we are seeing right now in the coronavirus response…” (author Kevin D. Williamson) 

One of the challenges in wisely navigating through the current corona crud is discerning consensus; there is not a generally agreed-upon set of facts. All sorts of people say all sorts of things, boldly asserting that their persuasion equates with truth. Additionally, anyone who shares any kind of contradicting conception is simply wrong. The biased media perpetuates the problem.

To be clear, consensus does not mean we each hold the same passion and agree entirely with the depth of every aspect. Consensus is more of a spectrum that allows for variation of response. That spectrum then paves the path to solution, making effective governance possible. Know, therefore, in order to build consensus, we’re not suggesting pure compromise; we are instead suggesting sincere listening. We need to listen better to the different. Whatever the issue. It takes hard work to build consensus. 

I was struck, no less — and somewhat fascinated — that even in our current polarized, socio-political, tribal state — where politics and power often seem to matter more than integrity — that this isn’t the first time we’ve disagreed on an established set of facts during a quarantine…

Per the New York Public Library (select statements shared for the purposes of brevity and relevance):

* Between 1791 and 1807, yellow fever was reported to have caused the deaths of 5,000 people in New York City. 

* In 1799, the state legislature passed the Quarantine Act, “to provide against infectious and pestilential diseases,” including punishments against doctors and ship masters who failed to report sick passengers to the Quarantine Hospital…

* By 1858, there was still no standard agreement between medical professionals about what caused the “black vomit.”

* Residents in the Tompkinsville vicinity [a village in the town of Castleton on Staten Island] formed the Castleton Board of Health as an opposing body to state health officials.

* The Times characterized the hotel [opposition board meetings] as populated by “citizens who congregate there to enjoy their lager and berate the Quarantine.”

* In the summer of 1858, rumors abound of the spread of the “black vomit.”

* Fed-up and panicked, locals mobilized.

* In 1858, residents of Tompkinsville… set fire to the buildings of the nearby Quarantine Hospital [the quarantine comprised over a dozen buildings].

* Quarantine doctors sent a dispatch imploring the Richmond County Sheriff to form a posse and defend the buildings, but the message received no answer and no posse arrived — the Sheriff took sides with the anti-Quarantinists.

* Onlookers from passing boats in the harbor were said to have cheered “in the most hearty manner” in support of the conflagration.

* Newspapers called it “The Quarantine War,” “The Quarantine Riot,” “The Staten Island Arson,” “The Burning of the Quarantine,” “The Staten Island Rebellion,” and “The Quarantine Imbroglio.”

* The state identified the fires as acts of lawlessness.

* The people justified violence as civic duty.

* Local citizens feared the spread of yellow fever and were enraged by the lack of empathy by city and state officials.

What’s the point of today’s more historical post?

Just looking at the dangers when we give up on the hard work of building consensus.

Respectfully…

AR

this is the day…

A little over 18 years ago, I felt like I got burned.

Here I was, our third son had just been born, and within an hour, the very intelligent, but awful-bedside-mannered geneticist was in our room, suggesting this must be “the saddest day of your whole life.”

There’s something within me, hearing those words once more, that makes me want to fight…

No, I give no man the power to declare for bad or sad what God has allowed to play out for good.

It wasn’t that the day wasn’t hard or sad or other perhaps well-intentioned adjectives. I just knew that such wasn’t the way it had to be.

There’s something about having a child born with a disability that’s humbling from the onset. There’s this big pit in the stomach and gulp in the throat that parents who share this experience can immediately recognize in one another, just looking them in the eye. It’s a little of this, “Lord, how in the *&$%#! am I going to do this! You trained me for something else! I have all these plans… all these expectations…”

And just like that, you have to throw the plans and expectations right out the nearest window.

For Josh, it was trisomy 21 — Down syndrome — or a third copy of that twenty-first chromosome. Additionally, he had an atrioventricular (AV) canal defect, meaning there was a hole between his heart’s chambers and the valves that allow the blood to flow — an unsurvivable condition unless fixed in the early months of life.

Also for Josh, he got sick before then with a nasty respiratory virus (aka RSV). As documented here, we spent most of the month of March of 2002 in the cardiac ICU wing at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. Joshua was on a respirator most of that time, unable to breathe on his own, with many moments terrifyingly touch and go.

But once the shock wears off and the medical issues are for the most part dealt with, then comes real life. Real life for the parents of children with special needs means changing your expectations, loving them just like any other kid, preparing them for adulthood, focusing more on what they will teach you as opposed to what you will teach them.

I can remember thinking at some point in those early years… “Yeah, fine… this is all well and good and true. He’s kind of cute right now. And everyone always talks about how loving kids with Down’s are. But what about when he’s not so little any more? What about when he’s not so cute? What about when puberty’s past, and he has man hair and everything? What will we do then?!”

And if I’m honest, I admit. That day scared me.

Friends, today is that day.

Today, Josh finishes his last day of high school.

And it’s a little crazy. I mean, with the spring of 2020 being nothing like how we thought the spring was going to be, the reality is that the story of my life is nothing like I thought it was going to be.

But what’s crazy? 

It’s better.

I have learned more. Grown more. Been tugged and stretched and maybe cried more. Learning more about who God is and who I am in relation to him. But it has never been anywhere close to the so-called saddest day.

Four days ago, I was standing in my kitchen, so proud of myself for being again really creative, making a homemade, pretty gourmet-ish, spicy sauce. As the container I was holding slipped out of my hand, I instinctively brought my non-oven-mitt-covered hand over to catch the falling container. I then quite painfully burned a good two-and-a-half by four inch section of my left wrist. Friends, it was nothing short of awful. 

Just yesterday, no less, I looked down at my still sore, probably-now-scarred arm and noticed something…

Right in the middle of the charred skin, there is a well defined, small shape. Clearly, there is a heart, smack dab in the middle of my wound. Yes, I was wearing a thin bracelet with a small heart charm. With burning hot sauce caught on the charm but the bracelet not immediately removed, the charm essentially served as a branding device on my wrist. But what was crazy, was that it was only when I was willing to look a bit past the burn and the pain — which still sometimes exists — could I finally see the beautiful. And now, that is all I see.

Congratulations to our Joshua. What a glorious day today is… what a special celebration!

It is beautiful indeed.

Joyfully…

AR

confronting racism together

Before we begin, allow me to rawly reveal that I’m pretty hesitant to write this. Many won’t like it, and many more may camp out on one point or another, potentially ignoring the whole of this post. It’s thus really hard. And one thing we’ve learned from the last few months is that collectively, we’re not always very good with the hard. Each of us has opinions, persuasions, and convictions that impede our ability to learn, communicate, and respect the different. We sometimes often stink at listening. But I believe this discussion is too important not to try…

When the video of Ahmaud Arbery was released this week, the nation was outraged. The President and presidential hopefuls decried the situation, calling for justice.

Arbery was jogging on a sunny afternoon through a residential neighborhood outside Brunswick, Georgia. He is 25. He is black.

64 and 34 year old Greg and Travis McMichael — a father and son — in their stationary pick up truck, shot him. They are white.

This happened two months ago. No one was charged. No one arrested. Until this week. When the world saw the video. 

Current reporting is that District Attorney Jackie Johnson refused to arrest the men, as she is friends with the father. Said Commissioner Allen Booker, “The police at the scene went to her [DA Johnson], saying they were ready to arrest both of them. These were the police at the scene who had done the investigation. She shut them down to protect her friend McMichael.” (Greg McMichael recently retired after a lengthy career as an investigator in the Brunswick district attorney’s office.)

If you have not seen it, know that the video is horrific, heinous and heartbreaking. Nothing short of grievous. While the Intramuralist will always advocate for due process, the two men who shot Ahmaud Arbery should have been arrested long ago. It doesn’t take two months to discern what they did is inhumane, illegal, evil and wrong.

Hence, I find myself fumbling with all sorts of questions. Join me, if you will — albeit I request you do so humbly…

Why did it take so long for the men to be arrested?

Was it because they are white?

Was it because of their law enforcement ties?

Did they receive any benefit of doubt because of the color of their skin?

Did Ahmaud Arbery not receive any benefit of doubt because of the color of his skin?

Let us bond together. Let us recognize that this isn’t a black, white, Republican, Democrat, Christian, non-Christian issue. This is a human issue. This is us. Like so many places where humankind draws a non-divine dividing line, this is an issue in which we all must come together to do life better.

But it’s tough for us to realize “this is us” because the conversation typically stops before it ever gets started, even though racism unfortunately still exists.

Over the past three months, I have read seven books from seven authors and angles in order to better understand this issue. Please don’t think of me as an expert. I am not. I simply desire to be more aware and love all people better because of that awareness. 

An initial key to awareness on this topic, I believe, is to recognize that there are two dominant ways we tend to define racism, and we tend to look at it wholly from one or the other perspective. We define racism as either (1) individual or (2) structural. Individual racism would be defined as something overtly done by one person to another. Structural racism would be defined by how society perpetuates racism through the social structures in which we live. Writes articulate, African American sociologist, George Yancey, “Individualists do not understand why fixing racist structure in society is so important because they do not believe that racism is found in social structures. Likewise structuralists cannot understand how individualists can fail to see the problem with structures, and they believe that individualists are insensitive to the real issues of racial inequality.” And with that lack of understanding and sensitivity, the conversation ceases.

Maybe that’s the main point of today, as one post, one blog, one conversation is not going to solve this massive issue. We have work to do. But maybe, just maybe, we can stop talking past each other and start with individual awareness…

Where am I insensitive?

Where am I unaware?

What am I ignoring?

Am I ignoring that racism still exists?

Am I also or instead ignoring my own errancy, arrogance and sin?

Note as we strive first for individual awareness, these are questions we ask ourselves. I get it. I understand the shouting at others and actually respect the passion behind it. I simply believe shouting at another typically doesn’t make the other want to be more like you.

So let us be humble. May we have deep compassion for the person of color who is once again pained. May we also have respect for the person in majority culture who is outraged but expresses it differently.

But most of all, let us begin. Let us become more aware. After all, this is us.

Respectfully…

AR