She gave me two thoughtful and beautiful gifts.
I gave her as much love as I could muster.
Then we sat in silence - twenty minutes of silent prayer.
This morning, I sat with another at 24/7. Talking. Journaling. Crying.
Offering each other words of encouragement and words of hope.
Then we walked to Sabor and shared an entree while we talked some more.
A week ago tonight, eleven people joined us in our living room to talk.
To reflect on gratitude and groundedness.
We told stories and asked questions.
How can we show God more love?
How can we fall deeper in love with God?
How can we pay more attention to what God is doing in the world?
Do we even notice what God is doing?
How can we help each other see, notice, and appreciate what's going on around us and within us?
We honored each other's stories and we encouraged each other to keep telling them.
We ate and drank and laughed and listened to each other.
There's something beautiful and powerful and soulful about gathering together.
In each other's homes. In the places where we are most comfortable and also most vulnerable.
To come together to open ourselves up to each other.
I look forward to getting to know them more.
Early on Sunday morning, I met up with the We Walk Together group.
Outside of a place here in Charlotte called Hope Haven.
This is the brief word of inspiration I shared with that group before we set out walking together -
On the 30th of January, we will go back to Hope Haven and serve lunch to the residents who are working to overcome addiction and its ravages in their lives and families.
I am grateful for the chance we will have to gather together with neighbors we didn't know we had, neighbors we never had the chance to meet and serve before.
Last night, my daughter and I went to a workshop on implicit bias
at a predominantly white baptist church here in Charlotte.
The folks from Race Matters for Juvenile Justice led the workshop.
They taught us about the ways that our brains work in terms of responding to various stimuli.
How bias is natural for all of us - it can save our lives.
For example, if we run into a bear, our bias against dangerous animals could save us by forcing us to get away from that bear.
But bias can also end someone's life - if our bias prompts us to take out a gun and kill someone we don't know because our brain has triggered a fight response.
There we were, my daughter and I, two of only five or six black people, in a crowd of 75 people.
I was honored and grateful to sit in a space with so many white people who wanted to know more about bias, about the ways in which bias can bring up fear in us, even when it is unconscious, unintentional bias.
I was impressed by the fact that so many people came together on a Wednesday night to hear stories and see a video and consider the fact that each one of us has biases, but some of us have more influence over others and can impact the lives of others based on their biases. If I run a company, if I am a school teacher, if I am a police officer, my biases can cause me to hire or fire or not hire certain people. My biases can cause me to suspend or expel one student for the same offense that would cause me to send another student to after school detention. My biases can cause me to shoot and kill someone for the same act that prompts only a warning for someone else.
It was a sobering gathering.
But a vitally important one.
One that more people need to participate in and with.
It's time to dismantle our biases and our racism and all the other -isms that divide us.
But we must first admit that we have them.
And last night was a time to see our biases, to acknowledge them, to examine them closely, and to begin to work on dismantling them.
Tonight, my daughter and I went to a gathering at the Muslim American Society here in Charlotte. We sat with Muslim women from the US, Egypt, Malaysia, and elsewhere, and several Christian women, all of whom were born in the US, I think, and we talked. About the inauguration. About the future of our country. About hope. We talked about the importance of working together for peace. And then we held hands in a circle and we prayed. Out loud. To God. To Allah. We prayed for our incoming president. We prayed for our nation. We prayed for each other. We prayed that we would be united in love and hope and peace. We prayed that we will be beacons of light and hope and grace in a country and a world that need light and hope and grace more than ever. It was the most meaningful prayer gathering I have attended in a very long time.
Once again, we had gathered in someone's home.
Not the home where they live, but the home where they worship,
where they pray, where they eat, and where they welcome the stranger.
Where they welcomed us.
They gave each of us a Qu'ran.
They invited us to return for more gatherings.
It was clear that they were comfortable in their spiritual home,
but also vulnerable.
The glass door to the outside was locked, so people could not just enter the building freely.
Everyone who wanted to enter the building had to knock and be admitted by someone.
Comfortable, welcoming, warm, but also cautious, protective, and alert.
There we were - gathered together. From different countries.
Different faiths. Different racial and ethnic groups.
No hatred. No anger. No fear.
Just love. Just unity. Just peace. Just hope.
Tonight, I am profoundly grateful for the gift of gathering together.
The vulnerability of gathering together.
The gift of asking questions about what we believe and how we practice what we believe.
The strength that comes from gathering together.
The gift of standing strong in our faith practices, even in the face of bias.
Explicit bias and implicit bias.
I am grateful for the common ground on which we stand.
The ground of trust in God, that God is with us, that God loves us,
that God wants us to live in peace with each other.
I am grateful for the messages of hope and support I am receiving from friends and family members around the world. There is so much fear and worry and concern about what the next four years will be like under our new president and his cabinet. I am grateful for the knowledge that I am not alone. We are not alone. There is power and hope in our gathering together and being together.
I am grateful for the many circles of people I have the privilege of walking with
and listening to and crying with and loving.
I am grateful to and for the God that draws so many wise, courageous, thoughtful, generous, faithful, faith-filled, funny, challenging, welcoming, hospitable people together.