I had a conversation with someone recently who had considered being active in our church. I would have been THRILLED to have that person’s gifts and real-life experience in the congregation, but it never quite clicked. Then that person told me they appreciated that my church worked with people with addictions and unsheltered folks, but because we were meeting those needs (and we’re a TINY church), it was pretty clear that person’s more regular “vital worship and strong Sunday School and youth ministries” needs weren’t going to get met unless our church expanded a whole bunch. (more…)
I find myself among a lot of people shaking their heads and sighing, “Kids today…”
It’s not my beloved gray-haired church members, though. It’s feminists my age or a bit older, experiencing the profound lack of concern among people in their twenties about the re-emerging battleground that is reproductive rights. (more…)
I was on a conference call the other night for the committee that evaluates board nominations for all the different arms of our denomination. Someone was giving his report on the makeup of the NAPAD board (North American Pacific and Asian Disciples), of which I’m a member. He said, “Well, their racial-ethnic percentages are great–almost all Asian American, obviously, and a couple of ‘Others’ and an Anglo.” I didn’t pay much attention–the regional minister who sits on our board is half Latina, and the General Ministry partner is Anglo. Then he said, “Now, they’re almost all in the 50-59 category with practically none in the 30-39 category.”
“Wait a minute,” I thought to myself, “on a board of 12, Cindy and I are both 30-39.” I flipped to the excel spreadsheet he was reading from, and I quickly interrupted, “Um, I’m on this board, and I just want to clarify that I’m still quite a few years from the 40-49 box.”
“That’s when a friend of mine on the conference call said, “And you’re Asian American.”
I looked over. And sure enough: the box that my own community had checked for me was “Other.” (more…)
I pulled my suitcase and my laptop behind me as I walked from Lake Merritt BART station towards home last night. I got to my least favorite part of the walk–a stretch with no businesses, poor lighting, and the highway underpass. A guy crossed the street towards me and I deliberately worked to make my face appear neutral and nonjudgmental.
“Hey! How’s it going?” he said in a voice far too friendly to sound natural as he walked past me, giving me an intentionally wide berth.
“Cool, thanks,” I responded, face still neutral.
That moment played itself out in a sad echo of our nation’s history with race. That guy, with his dreds and his hoodie, knew that an apparently white woman crossing the street at night would assume he was a potential assailant, and he sent every cue he could not to be afraid. And I worked hard to pretend that I wasn’t at all anxious as he crossed the road towards me, but I was thinking to myself, “I have EVERYTHING valuable in that laptop case right now and it’s the easiest thing to steal.” Because in this fragile community, many people are forced to steal and many steal because they can, and many of us of all races walk the streets in fear or don’t walk the streets. (more…)
I can feel it already. You’re going to roll your eyes when I say it. You’re going to think I got it from that movie about tall blue people who live in the rainforest. But it’s true–I think one of the most powerful things we can do for people is to SEE them, to render them visible when the rest of the world ignores, or as the expression goes, “turns a blind eye” to their story, their experience, their troubles.
I spent this weekend talking about the power of telling our stories and listening to one another’s stories without judgment. I have a little experience with people assuming they know who I am before meeting me and then being shocked when we come face to face. And I have a little experience with my community being rendered invisible (or sometimes seeking to make ourselves invisible so we don’t draw undue attention.) It can be rough stuff. (more…)
Last night I had dinner with a high-ranking naval officer and her wife who works in an optometrist’s office–a mixed race couple–and heard about the challenges of working at Guantanamo Bay from a woman’s perspective. This morning I had breakfast with a teacher and her wife who’s a drummer–also a mixed race couple–who discussed Paulo Freire and liberation theology with me. Later in the morning I had a conversation with a 20-year veteran of the military about the challenges of not being allowed to be honest about his relationship with the man in his life. This afternoon, I sat on the porch with a man whose mixed-race daughter works for poor workers’ rights and got arrested during the protests of Disney hotel workers’ mistreatment. (As an aside, when he and his wife first met, he spoke no Spanish and she spoke no English–it was “Love, Actually,” but for real.) And this evening I talked with a half-marathon runner as another mixed race couple chatted with each other about vacation plans in England.
This weekend, I was at a church retreat. (more…)