It's not unusual for me to cry in church (or attempt to cover it up). But our pastor shared two stories on Sunday that broke my insides.
The first highlighted a Starbucks barista who learned American Sign Language to communicate with a customer who's hearing impaired. The second was about a 10-year-old girl who received an American Girl doll featuring a prosthetic right leg -- just like hers.
Both stories tied into the day's scripture reading from Acts 2:1-21, where the Holy Spirit comes down on the 12 apostles (aka Pentecost), enabling them to speak in foreign tongues so that people from other nations could hear their native languages mirrored back at them.
The important thing to note about the passage, Pastor Charlie said, is that non-Christians weren't changed to understand the apostles, it was the other way around. As followers of Jesus, we're charged with meeting people where they are and sharing Jesus' love in a way that others can see and understand.
It feels like I'm just now absorbing the impact of this sentiment, in my faith life and beyond -- looking inside yourself and knowing the onus is on you to dig deep and make change happen.
Practicing it has been another matter entirely.
My Living Brave class ended last month, but I'm still working through the last few lessons because friends, this stuff is hard. I'm dissecting shame triggers and physical responses to hard emotions like anxiety and fear. I'm simultaneously evaluating and trying to shed behaviors that stick to me like a second skin -- behaviors I still cling to, even when I want to do better; even when I'm in the moment and I know, know in my bones, I can make a better choice. Baby steps.
The importance of speaking other people's language has never felt more important. Since the primaries began, I've resisted the urge to deactivate Facebook at least twice a day, to protect myself from rash unfriending and/or producing a regrettable emoji in response to a Fox News article. Phrases like "20 minutes of action" are still used to describe heinous rape crimes because we haven't yet taught our children that their bodies are their own, and that you have no right to put your hands on another person, ever. No matter how good an athlete you are, or how drunk your companion is, or how little clothing they have on.
But while society is inching along, many people are taking great strides to change the landscape.
I spent 30 minutes at Nathan's piano lesson reading the courageous statement from Brock Turner's rape victim, my heart in my throat the whole time, and thinking, God gave this woman a gift -- to be able to articulate her thoughts and experiences so well that her message is reaching millions of people. And her story resurfaced this great letter from Ask Moxie to her boys about how to stop rape. All these words help to change how we talk about sexual assaults, moving us from defensive "no means no" messages to proactive conversations about consent. If a girl isn’t saying anything, that doesn’t mean she wants it. If she isn’t saying specifically that she wants it, then it’s wrong. I still struggle with my experience in the gray area. But I hope my daughter never does.
I cried again today when I reached the part of the Stanford rape survivor's statement where she thanked the two graduate students who intervened on her behalf. Those guys could have looked the other way, pretended not to notice what was going on, assumed it was none of their business. Instead, they stepped up and got involved. Their actions spoke courage and love.
I wish I had something equally inspiring to say about the presidential election; maybe once I've finished the course? In the meantime, I'll try to remember that I can't change the world through a deactivated social media account. I've got to roll up my sleeves and get messy. On the upside, Brene says, there's magic in the mess.