Radical Thoughts Toward Healing Our Divided Nation
A few years ago, I was in a grocery store waiting at the cash register with a sweet older lady. While the woman was paying for her purchases, a man behind us, who did not think she was moving quickly enough, stormed past and out of the store as he angrily subjected this sweet woman to a vicious racial slur. Her reaction gave me a new perspective.
I said, “I’m so sorry that man said that to you,” and she said, “Oh honey, I forgive him. In fact, I pity him. Because his words are coming out of ignorance or hate, both of those will destroy his heart and the people around him if he doesn’t get rid of them.” I could tell immediately that this amazing wisdom and insight was spoken from the heart of a woman who had obviously removed those things from her own life.
So, what do we, as individuals and as a nation, need to do? We need to listen to the grandmothers in our own lives and remember that words can only hurt if they lead to sticks and stones. Like that wise saint at the grocery counter, let’s return to a time in our country when being offended did not equate to being physically attacked. It’s a lie to say that the pen is mightier than the sword. I understand that a pen can only raise my blood pressure, but a sword can stop my heart. To my knowledge, there has yet to be a police report filed where the cause of death was listed as Twitter.
Why is it that someone who crosses the protest line to hug the opposition causes such a nation-wide reaction. It is because forgiveness and kindness have become anomalies. Serving someone “disarms” them. Kindness takes the bullets out of their guns and the venom out of their tongues. This wise woman was intent on being a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
Whether you are a believer or not, these Christian tenants may hold an answer to this nation-wide issue.
Concepts such as: “The last shall be first…. The one who wants to be the greatest should be the servant of all”…and “Consider others better than yourselves.” Simple practices learned in preschools and Sunday Schools across the nation: treat others the way that you would like to be treated, be kind, help one another. If we truly begin to flesh out these concepts, we might radically change this chapter in American history.
You see, I don’t want you to be equal to me. I want to lift you up to become better than me. I want to be your biggest fan. I don’t want merely to become colorblind. Instead, I want to celebrate your culture, your color, your identity. And, I need for you to celebrate mine. I don’t want equality, I want to encourage you, forgive you, and spur you on so that we all might reach the height of our potential.
The wisdom of that sweet woman permeates me to this day. She rose above the selfish, childish rhetoric going on around her and emerged as the victorious adult in the room. We should all want to be just like her when we grow up.
In the end, the question isn’t, “Which lives matter?” What matters is how much your life affects the lives around you.
Brent Gambrell is the author of a new book “Living for Another” by Abington Press.