My heart is heavy; devastated really. I’ve come face to face with the harsh reality of our history that is currently being reinvented in our present. Normally, I’m a realist with a healthy dose of optimism. I see the situation in front of me but can often find hope, even a small piece, to hold onto. I appreciate reality and get excited about the possibility. But every once in awhile, there is a reality that hardens me; a reality so dark it seems hope is intangible.
That rare moment is now. The past month I’ve encountered a character I’ll refer to as the Woolly Bully and I’ll admit it is slightly passive-aggressive. I say slightly because it can also be taken quite literally. His external is masked with a split beard down to his chest and overalls. His internal is filled with ideas of hatred and aggressiveness toward anyone different than him. The heaviness stems from an overt thought process that can only be described as similar to those thoughts that birthed hate crimes and groups of the past. I wish I could say he was of an older generation; a generation that didn’t know better or didn’t have opportunities to experience new people, but that wasn’t the case. He can’t claim ignorance or the unknown. He’s a young generation filled with hate for unknown and incomprehensible reasons.
I do have hope.
Not because I think Woolly Bully with change his ways. Although, I pray for a soften heart, I’m not naive. He thrives on rage, aggressiveness, and harshness.
No, I have hope because of the people in my life who have challenged me to embrace our differences; the people in my life who despite those differences decided to do life with me.
My biggest challenger, arguer, and motivator is my dear friend Sherrita. Through the years, we’ve chosen to be friends and we’ve chosen to challenge each other. We’ve also chosen to appreciate each other’s culture.
Our first culture clash was over the age old argument…Is spaghetti a side dish? I say no. It fills me up and stands on its own. Pasta that can potentially have meat on it has to be considered an entree. Her response to that argument is always a shake of the head and a long explanation of how good it tastes with fried chicken…catfish…etc. The debate continues to be ongoing. I refuse to cave. She refuses to cave. We eventually conclude that in order for our friendship to survive, we are just going to have to agree to disagree. She doesn’t roll her eyes if I invite her over for just spaghetti and I understand that if I plan her birthday dinner she will be expecting a side of spaghetti.
Fast forward a few years. Our friendship has grown stronger. Sherrita, and our dear friend Ramon, recruits me for a “Gospel Choir.” I put this in quotes because when I show up, it is actually a quartet. That’s right. Two boy and two girls, each with their own part they’re responsible for. She would probably still argue that there’s not that big of a difference. She’d be wrong. What she didn’t anticipate is that we were trained very differently. You see I was trained in a Chapel Choir. That means Handel’s Messiah and you don’t breathe until you get to the end of a phrase. She was trained in an Apostolic Gospel Choir, which means it is totally acceptable to breathe in the middle of a word if it makes it sound better. Talk about culture clash! Again, she would just shake her head and begin the explanation, while Ramon and Samson laughed in the background.
Throughout the years, our worldviews have expanded, we’ve tolerated the ignorance in one another, and we’ve challenged each other’s perspective. She calls me her twin. Her sisters are my sisters and she definitely lets Annie be the little sister. My mom cherishes her as a daughter and proudly sat beside her parents at her wedding.
So…although my heart is heavy, I look at the Gladneys and my precious sister Sherrita and I will choose to hope. I may not be able to change the hearts of Woolly Bully. I will continue to pray for his heart to soften and for him to gain understanding. But, my hope stems from knowing that everyday I can choose to let people of different cultures in my life. Everyday I can choose to appreciate those differences and learn from them.
Everyday I can choose love instead of hate.
Compassion instead of injustice.
Knowledge instead of ignorance.
Which will you choose?