There was an amazing attribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. last at the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Cedar Rapids. I honestly probably wouldn't have went to the celebration if my daughter hadn't been singing in the Johnson STEAM Academy's Gospel Choir. But my little girl was there, singing beautifully, enjoying the songs about Dr. King and beaming with radiance as she felt the presence of the music, but I, too, felt the presence of community.
Community. A quick google search and three definitions of community are revealed--1) a unified body of individuals, 2) a social state or condition, and 3) society at large. All three of these definitions could be attributed to tonight's celebration. But the biggest community message was about society at large.
Karl Cassell gave a keynote address about freedom and love. He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed," then he called on the community to recognize that it is time for us to realize that our communities are being oppressed. He spoke of President Trump, but was careful to point out that this is far greater than one man's position of leadership and is instead a fight that's continued since the abolishment of slavery.
He spoke of how the government shut down affects us all--from being able to purchase medicine to being entitled to a free and appropriate education--and he called on the community to recognize, "...we as a society will realize that a government that can hold you hostage over any amount of money, is subsequently limiting our freedom."
From there, he called on people to love one another. In order to love one another we first must recognize that we need to approach interactions with others as opportunities to do the right thing. We need to approach conversations with hearts of love, kindness, and openness. And we need to recognize it is time to be courageous enough to have inclusive conversations. Conversations WITH people who our society has marginalized, which is why I have started the Facebook page, Inclusive Conversations. It is a community where all are welcomed without judgment for the color of their skin, their identification with a marginalized group, or their unique abilities.
All of this leads me to my question, is the water the same? On both sides of the rope, the water exists. Is it the same water? Are the properties the same? Is the chemical formula two parts hydrogen to one part oxygen? If so, in the metaphor of #waterislife, are we all the same?
As water is a huge metaphor in my life, I ask each of you - is the water the same? On both sides of the rope is the water the same? If so, are we the same. Beneath the colors of our skin, beneath the gender identification, beneath sexual orientations, beneath the surface - are we all the same? And do we have the courage to see the souls?
My word for 2019 is courage. I had the courage to jump (leap, fly) into the unknown waters of whatever is next in my life. I had the courage to move away from the safety and security of what society expected. I had the courage to move from the shallow and safe waters to the deep and courageous waters, but I am still the same person with a bucket list of almost no material items - instead I want to be the person that shows gratitude, teaches my children kindness, and MODELS the humility of caring for others because it is the right thing to do.
If you're ready to be an agent of change in our community, I invite you to do things that are both easy to do and easy not to do. I invite you to thank a public servant. I invite you to attend a school board meeting, volunteer at a school to read with children, pick up the litter, and have a conversation with the person that you are terrified to get to know - because you never know what story awaits. And I think we can agree that the answer to the question "Is the water is the same?" is yes.
Join me in using #inclusiveconversations to share about how you're seeking to understand and subscribe to this blog to read the upcoming posts:
The Sweetest Word In Any Language
Be Kind to The Water
Watch @inclusiveconversations on Facebook for events in the Cedar Rapids area.