The Privilege in Retreat

I needed today to lose myself in my thoughts. It is baldly a privilege that many others do not enjoy; to be able to retreat in these times of turmoil and civic unrest to work out my emotions and thoughts inside my head. We worked outside on a late spring day best described as spectacular and almost otherworldly in its peace and perfection. I marveled at history made in orbit far above my very busy head, accomplished by the talents of many diverse people working together towards a common purpose - a miracle of physics. Tonight we sat by our campfire with a couple friends, processing just the simple joy of being socially distant in person. The girls shared their experience from a very peaceful and inspirational march in Leesburg today. 

Our campfire is of course, mere yards from the final resting places of hundreds of people who lived far different experiences simply because of the color of their skin. Many of them endured Jim Crow laws and segregation in their lifetimes. Some of the oldest graves are of those who were born into slavery. Their presence is a constant reminder to me that there is much that I have not experienced by virtue of nothing more than my lack of pigmentation. 

Until the pandemic shuttered everything, and before the elderly and vulnerable stay away for their own safety, I would see a couple dozen cars most every Sunday coming to worship at the Mt. Olive Baptist Church. I always smile and wave, as I do when they come to visit their ancestors buried adjacent to my back yard. My small acts of kindness do nothing more in those moments then affirm our humanity, our brotherhood as part of the same species. We are each and all imperfect beings making our way through this world with random moments of grace, grief and guts. And yet, our paths are so different. 

If we are truly who and what we say we are as Americans, and what we aspire to be, somehow that must change. If these ideals that we claim to revere, imperfectly spelled out in their quaint 18th-century script, are not the inheritance of all who call this land home, then they cannot belong to any of us. I'm not ready to give up on that dream, not by a long shot. Because reaching those ideals truly is something worth standing for. 

On this night, 99 years to the day after the mob destruction and massacre of Tulsa's African-American middle class communities began, I aspire to be better tomorrow. I have much to learn from the living as well as history and my backyard ghosts.

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