I do my best to live by these words. I believe they are at the heart of compassion and respect for all...
I heard him
Expose his bias
Struggle to wrap his mind around a
Reality that wasn’t his own
He asked questions...
Questions that made me cringe...
Made me want to jump in
Defend her... But
What prejudice in me made me...
Think she couldn’t defend herself...
She was young but
Her own experience in
Her own words expressing what
She believed to be important
Her truth met his
Defenses went up automatically
I would later realize
He was doing his best
Doing his best to...
Reconcile her experience with his... fit
Her black experience into his whiteness
I could see him sitting on that suitcase, trying to zip it shut, but nothing would concede. The contents refused to resolve itself within the parameters of his consciousness. So, once again late, he hurried down the corridor, tripping over all the aspects of life that fell out as he raced to catch his departing train... heading west, while she quietly got back on her train... heading east. They would pass each other in the night, his train on its predetermined track, never stopping or even slowing down to receive the gift she had just given him... the gift of her honesty.
He’d done the same thing to me years before, when “the subject” popped up unexpectedly over a dinner table. He’d subjected me to the same scrutiny, and I got the distinct impression that he’d found my answers lacking in truth. Maybe, his tone suggested, I was imagining, like children do, monsters under my bed, that didn’t really exist.
But who knows, maybe monsters do exist under beds, and children (and those society dismisses as insane) are the only souls sensitive enough to recognize our nightly fears for what they truly are. I don’t know... what I do know is that I am old enough to know that I don’t know everything.
Anyway now back on his train...
He sat in the lap of luxury
Sun streaming through wide windows
Beauty dancing all around him but...
His brows wouldn’t let go of worry
The daily news reports
Like this young woman’s answers
Played like a broken record
Over and over and over again
Reducing the music of his
Life to a crazy loop
It perplexed him
This horror film
But even as the images flashed across his screen
His mind refused to decipher
The message written on the under side of
His education and success
He couldn’t crack the code
In all his years
Living on Mother Earth
No formula had presented itself to him
No equation had...
When worked out in the
Logic and reason of these modern times
Produced any result that even remotely resembled these everyday atrocities
Even after driving
Year after year, from
His secluded upper-crust neighborhood
Across the train tracks to
The black church
On the other side of town, and
Yes reveling in that music
Loud and intense, and with all that
Hand-clapping and feet-stomping
Still trying to make it over
Still praying for deliverance
Still wondering in the wilderness
Still trying to reach the promised land
Shoutin’ and catchin’ spirits... resurrecting
Gods and traditions from another time
A darker time when the word
“Black” was beautiful
Not an ugly metaphor for sin and sinner
Don’t get me wrong, he was by no means a bad man. Not in the least bit, he was a good man. Good in heart and in deed. That is probably why he sat here, on this train, on this Saturday afternoon wrestling, like doubting Thomas, with his thoughts. A lesser man wouldn’t have bothered with this particular problem, this particular problem that reached back, like the hands of time, through centuries and over continents... this particular problem that still, to this day, lingers in the hearts of so many, trying desperately to build themselves up to be more... and who doesn’t want to be more?
I guess that was the slap in the face
I expected empty souls
Who had nothing in their hearts
To reach and grab and
Take everything they could
But a man with such kindness...
A good man who did good deeds would, I thought, understand what so many understood so well. An intelligent man, who did intelligent things, would recognize this element in our world that was so obvious to so many... including me.
This frustrated me to no end... but why?
Why was I allowing this man’s ignorance to affect my peace of mind?
Why was it so important that he understand?
Why was his stamp of approval needed to validate my experience?
Answer honestly: I wanted him to see me... truly see me and understand me and respect my experience... our experience.
But now that I admit this, he doesn’t seem as important. Yes it is nice to be seen and respected, it may even be essential to our wellbeing, but seen by whom? I don’t know if one can make another see what they don’t want to see... respect what they don’t want to respect. Of course one can teach another to behave respectfully, but behaving and being are not exactly the same. In these instances, I believe it is up to us to see ourselves... respect ourselves.
So I do the work...
I sit on my own suitcase, full of my own shortcomings, and resolve and fold them neatly, one by one, using the parameters of my present consciousness.
I observe the trains of thought I jump on daily, and pay attention to the lines I avoid and the routes I miss.
I give what I want to receive - understanding, compassion and respect.
Finally, I do my best to recognize another’s truth within myself. As Dr. Maya Angelou once said, “I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me.” So I recognize it all, I accept it all - the highest highs and the lowest lows. Remembering this mantra gifts me the opportunity of walking a mile, or maybe the privilege of just a few steps, in another’s shoes, be it sneakers... stilettos... timberlands... or penny loafers... realizing with each step the simple truth that we are indeed one. One love.