Let’s pretend for a moment that I’ve had any real claim to struggle and suffering in my life. Like many people that grew up in dysfunction and poverty, I didn’t have an idyllic childhood, and I never felt like I fit in. But, let’s be real. I’m super white. I have blonde-ish hair. I’m a girl. As long as I was willing to be vulnerable, people were always willing to help me. Although I deeply resent the superficiality of it it, I deeply appreciate the advantage; it’s helped me a great deal and I don’t know that there’s any other appropriate response than – gratitude.
So, it’s with a great deal of humility that I suggest that I have something to contribute on the day we use to celebrate the legacy of Dr. ML King.
Because of and despite both the positive and negative aspects of my life, it has been one of my life’s goals to understand the nature of human interaction and love. There are few people in history that have demonstrated the power of love more than Dr. King.
Love is the critical ingredient in making something that’s good for one of us, good for all of us.
But what Dr. King also showed, better than most, is that loving can be crazy-hard; and that the love that challenges us is the love we have the deepest responsibility to pursue. It’s easy to pursue selfish love; it’s much harder to look at the bigger picture and believe in the power of love that we give away, especially when we don’t have faith that it will grow and come back.
That sounds exactly as irritating and frustrating to me as it does to anyone else. I tend to see the world around me in a big-picture way. It’s always felt more comfortable to navigate my feelings in the abstract than in concrete one-on-one terms. What I’ve come to realize in the past few years, and this year in particular, is how important and difficult it can be to love your neighbor. But, what I’ve come to question is whether, in our inability to love our neighbors, we must face our own immaturity in love.
When I say neighbor, I don’t just mean the greasy guy next door that doesn’t ever wear shirts, throws beer cans into your yard, and shoots bottle rockets at your roof. Yeah. You don’t have to like him, but showing that person genuine human compassion and understanding isn’t about giving someone something they haven’t earned, but creating an emotional environment that makes Life better. It’s what gives you the wherewithal to create positive change. But, by neighbor, I also mean someone that you genuinely like, but struggle to understand; or someone that you love, but struggle to like. I hope I’m not the only one that rationally thinks that shouldn’t be hard, but feels like the struggle is suck-tastic.
So, I have a challenge for us. I created ten Thank You cards to show gratitude to (ten different) people in our lives. Some of them are things it’s easy to be grateful for, some aren’t. They’re meant to be colored – both as a meditation and as a way to show you’ve invested effort and time – then they’re meant to be given away. Anonymously or not. But, even if you can’t bring yourself to give them away, write names on all ten and spend some time in your awareness that these ten things and those ten people deserve acknowledgement and gratitude, even if it’s silent and even when it’s hard. In the end, confronting those difficult feelings is what makes us strong and whole, and I think that’s worth fighting for, even if and especially when others benefit, too.
Which is the card that’s going to be the easiest to give away? Which is going to be the hardest? Who is the person in your life that’s the easiest to love, and why? Who’s the hardest? Why? What do you think could change if you loved that person better (the way they needed to be loved). What do you fear might happen if you did?
Love you all,