I am writing from Common Cup, a coffee shop on campus where I had hoped to run into a new friend, a man I met at the Interfaith Roundtable. He is married to a European Jewish woman, making their four well-educated, accomplished sons, bi-racial, which I wish I did not have to notice, but especially right now, I do. He is wise and passionate, my new friend, and whenever we talk he says things worth writing-down. Tuesday, he said,
“We, all of us, have to channel our anger, or else it threatens to tear apart … everything.”
I order the Papa New Guinea free trade, pour-over, with a shot of hazelnut flavoring and cream on the side and decide to wait to see if my friend stops by the shop; he comes here often.
I have just walked here, across the University campus, from an outrageously good Mexican lunch with another new friend, a 20-something community organizer for Habitat for Humanity. She is awaiting the birth of her first child. She lives with her husband in Detroit, and listens to audio books during her :45 commute each day. We talked about the election and she challenged every assumption I had about her before we took the time to share a meal. I walked away, filled by both the depth of our conversation and the combination of flavors in the food.
We had approached our meeting cautiously; and spontaneously embraced when we parted.
During my walk from Tios to Common Cup, I passed a tunnel-like-alley filled with graffiti on every exposed surface. The predominant colors of the angry art were white and black, red and blue. In that tunnel 3 skeletal men were talking as if through megaphones. The words they pretended to offer one another were clearly meant for everyone passing the tunnel; they dripped with hate, unveiled threats and anger, like blood off a vampire’s incisor. I had the sense that they thought their right to speak at this volume on this topic was long overdue. At the entrance of the alley-tunnel, I paused briefly to stare at them; it was likely the evilest eye I’ve ever given away free.
I passed the First Presbyterian Church on my walk. A congregation of 5000 members, I went there Sunday night with friends from church to hear about the 25 Tiny Houses being built on Cass in Detroit for the homeless. Some of the food in our meal was grown in the city garden near these planned houses. The Ambassadors, a formerly homeless group of men and one woman sang us heartfelt hymns and You’ve Got a Friend after dinner.
We were welcomed to the presentation by First Presbyterian’s Senior Pastor / Head of Staff, Rev. Fairfax Fair, who was as gracious and eloquent as one might expect from a leader of such a large church. Her welcome reminded me of a time when some misguided men once told me that I wasn’t Senior Pastor material. I took some pride in listening to her talk to me as an equal.
My mantra since January 1, 2016 has been Listen to Understand. When I chose it, I had no idea how difficult it would be to live it out.
Since the election, I have sought out voices unlike my own and tried to wrap my head around the daily news of hate crimes and questionable appointments to the White House staff. I’ve heard election debriefings that include an account of Facebook’s fake news reporting and how it may have influenced votes and a discussion with no solution about who, if anyone, should be held accountable if the extent of that influence proves to be true. The tension in every dimension of our public dialogue now feels like glue dried on our skin that we need to peel off piece by piece because it has all taken hold.
As I walked, the sheer beauty of the day commanded my attention, like a balm to my brain which has no off-switch, or a soft bandana wrapped around my heart to hold it together.
At every corner, I raised my face to the sun and intentionally inhaled the fresh autumn air. At every turn, I took pictures of the light breaking through –
catching the chrome on bikes
making even brown leaves shine.
It is that light, in which we must stand, to warm our weary souls.
It is the reason I paint. And that most artists do their art. It calms the soul. That difference between light and dark. LK
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