I have shed a lot of tears over the last few days. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile and the five Dallas police officers: Lorne Ehrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thomspon and Patrick Zamarippa all seemed so senseless to me. I just can’t wrap my head around it.
It’s painful thinking about a four-year-old girl witnessing a police officer killing the man who had been a father to her, while her mother, the man’s fiancée, stoically and respectfully taped it. Another man was shot and killed while already pinned down to the ground. An officer who had just been married two weeks ago got gunned down while doing his job, protecting peaceful protestors of, ironically, police violence. It’s made me very sad and I don’t even personally know any of these people. I also have been feeling the complete overwhelm of not knowing how on earth to help make things better.
I reached out to my friend Lorna (after not having heard from me in goodness knows how long) without any “Hi, how are you?” preamble, I texted her about how I was feeling. She responded in her usual kind, compassionate way. I could practically hear her elegant Jamaican accent while I was reading her responses.
Me: Lorna, I’m so sad today about all the killing that has been going on this week. I am sad for the families of the two black men who were shot by police, as well as, the families of the cops shot in Dallas. All these precious lives lost senselessly. I have no idea how to help make things better.
Lorna: Cindy, thanks for reaching out and I do appreciate your thoughts. There is so much good to celebrate and I cherish you, who have the guts to see beyond color or race! Blame can be passed around but we must now stop to listen!! Violence is not the answer!! But what is? Thanks Cindy. Love you much. Smile-hope lives.
Me: I am so glad I know you. You never made me feel like a “white” friend but just a friend.
Lorna: I loved you the day you walked into ACS, then CWA (where we both worked over 20 years ago.) White or black, you are just a great person!!
Me: Thanks! 🙂 Right back at ya! (I’m not as eloquent in real time as Lorna.)
I think good racial relations are about personal relationships. To go a step further, it’s not about race at all; it’s about treating everyone you encounter with kindness, respect and compassion.
My friend Jodi got it right with this response to a post I had put up on social media about how helpless I felt after the tragedies of the last several days:
“Some people are “activists” but my style is to just try to live with love, acceptance & tolerance to the best of my ability. I work in a tourist town and I meet all kinds of people, from everywhere & I try to enjoy them all and make them feel welcome. I always remember the lesson I learned when I lived out of the country for a couple of years – when you met an American – it didn’t matter their race, religion, sex, anything it was an American -and I just wanted to hug them! If we could maybe live on another planet for a while – maybe we would appreciate [each other] whenever we see another human being or earth animal. I live in hope of world peace, but sometimes when I think of the thousands of years humans have been warring and fighting each other – it’s rather discouraging. But there is always HOPE.”
Jodi’s wisdom reminds me of Lorna. We are more alike than we are different. When we focus on what we all have in common while respecting and eventually appreciating our differences, we can all get along and even cherish one another. “Smile – Hope lives.”