Waking Up to Painful Realities


A heaviness fills me. I struggle to keep my mind on the orders I’m filling but the labels blur as the tears of my heart pool in the corners of a soul that feels so old and tired.

Last night I finished reading the story of a young Jewish girl’s experience of growing up in the ghettos of Germany in World War II, before being put on the train for Auschwitz. Tears streaming down my face I thought, “Yup, it’s what they say. The only thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history.”

Earlier in the day I had watched  a short film of the journey of a young Syrian woman and her escape from Syria to Austria. From bombed out shells of buildings that once housed colorful vibrant communities, through raging rivers, and on to razor topped fences at unwelcome borders, she showed such courage and strength. What got me the most though, was not the plight of the refugees, as horrible as it still is for so many. No, what really broke me was the hate I saw pouring out in the comments afterwards. It was a raw and unfiltered hate, coming from mostly white people of privilege.

I’ve been reading a lot of posts on Facebook lately, trying to really hear the hearts of people who have had different experiences from mine. Some examples are the stories of four young people and their first experiences with racism. My son has been bullied and we’ve had some tough conversations but it pales in comparison to conversations the parents of  these kids have had to have with their children.

What drives this hate? I’m not a psychologist but I would venture a guess that there is fear involved. What are we, as white people, so afraid of that, generation after generation, we have pushed down those who are different from us? Why are we so exclusive? Why this frenzy to protect our freedom and way of life at all costs?  I must have missed that verse in Scripture somewhere. I always thought it said if you try to save your life you will lose it, but if you lose your life you will find it.

We are guests in a land of plenty. Does it really hurt us if someone else gets free health care coverage that is literally saving their life, while we pay a bit more for ours? Or does it ruin us if we’re turned down by a certain college while someone else of a different background gets in because of civil rights laws created to address past injustices? Does it matter if a video showing the trek of one refugee might possibly be fabricated, as some have suggested,  when either way it shows us the reality of life for so many right now? Do we really need to arm ourselves with more weapons to preserve our place in a land that was never ours to begin with? What is this clamor I hear? What is this hate? I don’t recognize my country any more, or maybe I am  finally seeing it for what it really is.

This waking up is painful, I cannot hold it inside or it will consume me. If I were an artist, I would paint a picture of what I see but it would hurt too much to look at and only the most sadistic person would buy it. But I’m not an artist so I weave my words together, hoping that my waking up can help others to wake up. It is in the waking that we remember we are alive. A people awake and alive can lament and heal and only then can we begin to bring healing to those we have injured.