The Thing About Silence

I always loved walking my kids home from school. Now that they are older and independent, I miss those sweet ten minutes of undivided attention where we would talk about their day as we walked the 3-1/2 blocks home. One day, we were walking behind another group of kids, and I couldn’t help but overhear one kid bullying another. Though this happened years ago, I remember their faces as if it were yesterday. His sweet round pudgy face, ringed with dark curls, eyes down on the road, while a younger boy with large brown eyes and similar dark curls was laughing loudly and calling him gay.

As we turned to walk down our alley, my inner conflict was roaring so loudly, I’m surprised my kids didn’t hear it. I’m a quiet person and don’t like to put myself into other people’s business. I most certainly do not like to tell someone that they are wrong.

BUT his eyes and his sweet little face!

AND my kids were watching and how did I want them to treat people?

AND I was convinced that God had created each person and loved them so deeply and that was all that mattered today.

So I turned around and marched up to the little taunter and we had a conversation loud enough for everyone around us to hear. I gently but firmly told him this was not okay. That God had made and loved each person so deeply that it doesn’t matter if this boy was gay or not. No one deserves to be treated this way.

There is a lot of hatred, bullying and racism being spoken loudly and publicly these days. Listen up big people, little people are listening more than you realize. What you say is important but don’t forget that your silence speaks volumes as well and right now, it shouts a message to those around you. Choosing to be silent when witnessing racism and bullying has the same effect as being overtly racist or a bully yourself. You communicate to your people, including your children, that your race is superior and that bullying others is okay. Silence makes you an ally of one side or the other. There is no happy medium with silence.

We choose life by choosing words that give dignity. We bring healing to a broken world when we choose words that give hope. Choose words, instead of silence, because our little ones are listening.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.

The Power in Your Pocket

We don’t have to be wealthy to change the economy of our neighborhood.  A business degree isn’t necessary to lower the unemployment rate. If we have money in our pocket and buy things, we are job creators. That 1% at the top would like for us to believe that they are the job creators in this country and that to enable them to open up more jobs, they need more tax cuts and benefits. But think about it, even if they choose to expand and hire more workers instead of lining their pockets, it is not sustainable unless enough of us are purchasing those products. You can read more about this here. We hold incredible power in our hands.

Even if our budget is limited to the basic necessities of life, we can choose who we help create jobs for by choosing where we spend our money.

We can frequent your farmers market to ensure local farmers and bakers stay in business.

We can choose to eat at the taco truck or local diner to ensure that families in our home town can keep paying their bills.

We can meet our friends at a coffee shop run by a mom and pop nearby instead of lining the pockets of some CEO at the head of a large chain.

Hire the electrician who is just starting his own business.

Somebody’s got to cut our hair every now and then. Why not make sure it’s a local business owner?

Buy our bicycle directly from someone who actually cares about your neighborhood.

Order coffee beans from someone who knows the farmer who grew them.

Buy gifts from the quaint little shop in town where the owner loves to tell you stories of the people who crafted them.

We must stop waiting for someone at the top to make this country great, improve our neighborhood, make our lives better. It starts with us.

Let’s be thoughtful…be purposeful…spend with intent…love our neighborhood well.

Photo courtesy of Adrienne Gerber Photography.

 

 

Turning Strangers into Family

Bangladeshi BBQ MealToday is Eid al-Adha, the festival of the sacrifice. Muslims around the world gather in memory of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son.

I remember being a young exhausted mother of a wall-climbing toddler, with a second child on the way. We had just moved into a new apartment in Dhaka, Bangladesh and barely had our boxes unpacked. The morning of Eid, our toddler had us up bright and early, as usual. It wasn’t long before we heard a knock on the door. Much to our surprise, seven gentlemen from seven other homes in our apartment building, were standing there, eager to invite us to each of their homes to celebrate the holiday with them.

We were humbled and honored to be their guests. And we did, indeed, visit every one of their seven homes that day. Each family shared their finest feast food with us. We were welcomed to their table, even though we were different. Foreigners of a different faith. Speakers of a different language. Welcomed as family.

I’m sitting here today with a lump in my throat that will not go away. I get goosebumps on my arms as I remember their kindness, their generosity, their welcome. I cannot help but contrast it to how my country is treating those who are foreign, those who are different.

When we lived in a Muslim country, we never spent a holiday by ourselves. We were always treated as family. Here in our “Christian” country, many immigrants never see the inside of an American home. Here we too often treat them as the “less than” and automatically assume they have broken laws to be here. Our “Christian” nation is in a frenzy, trying to rid ourself of those we believe do not belong here, stooping to unspeakable violence and indecency.  Last week in Mississippi alone, nearly 700 people were rounded up by ICE, leaving many children without parents to come home to on their first day of school.

Most of us agree that the system is broken. But any system, broken or not, can only go so far to make or break a country because a country is made up of individuals. As individuals, we can open our doors wide.  We can practice hospitality and turn strangers into family.  My Muslim friends taught me that family is any human being who is near you. So let’s keep an eye out for our family. Let’s make sure they are safe and that they know we see and value their humanity. We don’t have to wait for the system to change to become the change that our country desperately needs right now.

Eid Mubarak. Happy Festival!