Harbor: Developing Conviction

“You have to work at your sense of conviction. . . “

Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “Power of Conviction

I go out into  my world each day knowing that I am a white man, living in the Deep South (born and raised here) who spends his work day working with teenagers in a school that is extraordinarily diverse.  I live in the most diverse county in the United States at this time.  Six miles from my house, all of the businesses have their signs in English andiversittyd Korean.  Three miles beyond that, one finds a car repair district where everyone speaks Spanish and some English.  Five miles in the other direction, we have the largest Hindu temple outside of India, and ten miles to the east of there the business signs are written in English and Serbo-Croatian-Bosnian.  My school work day takes place in a sea of brown skin–so many shades of brown, from the light brown skin I have (called by our culture “white” but it doesn’t come close to actual white) to dark coffee brown on others (called by our culture “black” but it’s way off from actual black)–and every imaginable shade in between.

I know that I enjoy a way in the world that many of my darker brown skinned students and colleagues do not.  I wrestle with teens and adults in my world who do not yet understand the issues of race that still confront us every day, and some days I wrestle with myself over what I don’t yet understand.  Some days I do a little dance for what seems to be progress in our way of being in the world together. Some days I wonder if it’s not just 1953 all over again, and that leaves me feeling broken.

I need a place to work on my convictions.  Out in my every day world, I am doing the best that I can to live my convictions about racial equality in the world.  But, that’s not working on my convictions.  That’s putting them to the test, and some days, they get bruised, battered and broken.  I need a place to work on my convictions, sharpen them, renew them, empower them.

I find that in my Unitarian-Universalist community.  There is a sea of brown people there, too (and yes, it’s a lighter brown sea than the school I work in).  This community of people are willing to talk to each other, listen to each other, ask important questions, and admit to fear and brokenness.  I don’t need a harbor to run to for safety so much as I need a harbor where I can get myself together, stronger, clearer, more honest about myself and my convictions.  I’m doing that every Sunday when I walk into our community gathering place.  Among other things our sign says “Black Lives Matter.” Our door way proclaims that this is a place that welcomes EVERYONE with a beautiful rainbow.  I am, just by arriving, fortified in my convictions.  I need that.

Monday always comes the next day.

Bob Patrick

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