In the weekend prior to the 50th anniversary of the March in Selma across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, I listened to many interviews from those who were there. I was moved by those who found themselves in that moment drawn and compelled to march, to stand, to kneel, to yield to no threats, to receive blows against their physical body as well as against their emotional and spiritual body. I was moved by their stories because, as I listened to them, I felt that I was listening to those who were ready. They were ready to become the face, the voice, and the witness to justice.
That doesn’t mean that they were not afraid, that they did not feel pain, that they were not worried about being killed, that they did not fear for the safety of their families. As human beings, they did experience all of those things, and they stood for justice anyway.
At the same time, I heard other stories–those of countless men and women who could not stand, who were too afraid, who knew that if they tried to register to vote or to speak up that they would lose their jobs, that their kin would be punished, that they would be threatened with death. The fear was too great. The hatred was too effective.
This second group is much more like most of us. We fear the loss of what we have if we stand up or speak up. The fear is paralyzing, easily rationalized, and so we do and say little if anything. As I listened to the stories, one voice emerged that helped me see that these two groups–those who stood for justice and those who were too paralyzed to do anything–worked together. One man told of going door to door, seeing the fear, hearing in the voice, knowing that no one in that household was going to move forward. They convinced him of their plight, and in their plight he heard his call.
There is a sense in which those in need of justice become the “ready room” that brings forth the prophets and the warriors of justice. We are all connected, and while it’s easy to draw a line between the “brave” and the “coward,” in fact, they belong and work together. The one readies the other. Just as a brave soul steps forth because of the downtrodden she/he sees, once the witness is given, one more steps forth from the downtrodden to become the new witness to justice.
Brave today? Broken today? Trust that the Spirit of Truth and Compassion is readying in you exactly what this moment needs.