You may have seen the following letter written by “This is Us” actor, Lonnie Chavis. These images are from his original facebook post:
I haven’t watched “This is Us” yet. But I did see the 4 minute clip he talks about here and it was a punch in the gut.
“The director and writers told me that they didn’t need me to cry for the scene. However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality. I wasn’t acting. I was crying for me. Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn’t hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism?” Lonnie Chavis
We’ve come so far in the fight against racism and we’ve made so much progress on the road toward cultural competence and inclusion. Until just a few months ago, I genuinely thought we were still steadily moving forward.
At best, it seems progress is stalled.
At worst? If we’re not careful and intentional and diligent, we could slip backwards toward segregation and division.
It will take incremental steps and years for continued change to come to fruition. Implementing extensive change throughout widespread and interlocking systems and institutions is a mammoth objective with countless prerequisites and dependent tasks. The shadow of this mammoth task can block our vision and prevent us from recognizing opportunities to be active partners within these larger efforts, as well as prevent us from seeing opportunities to use our talents and skills to effect change within our own circles of influence.
Unless we intentionally search for those opportunities, we can fall into thinking that, as an individual, our voice is too small to make a concrete difference and that to be heard, our options are limited to voting and activism; such as protesting, signing petitions, donating money, and posting on social media.
Unless we recognize the cumulative and exponential results that grow from countless individuals working one-on-one to change the trajectory of a single person’s life, we run the risk of becoming incapacitated by the self-defeating belief that our individual contribution “isn’t going to cut it” as someone told me recently.
Acrimonious cynicism is counter-productive and that conclusion is unfounded. I’ve seen firsthand the results of helping a single individual break the cycle of generation poverty and overcome situational poverty and that kind of transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When you help one person, the change in their life is contagious. It infects their family and friends. I’ve been focusing on helping individuals for over 5 years now and I’m not going to give up on them because of a cynical dismissal that equates the results these hard working people achieve to being “coddled.” They are courageous and earn every hard fought success.
Some may call me naive, but I believe we can do more than protest, sign petitions, donate money, post on social media and vote.
If we want continued change and effective reform
I believe we need innovative ideas from
diverse groups of people uniting together,
blocking groupthink and creating synergy
I believe we need achievable goals
with sustainable results and
strategic plans tactically deployed
by teams of dedicated individuals
I believe we need patience and perseverance
for incremental steps, grace for failing,
course corrections and permission to try again.
Each of us has unique talents, skills and passions and there are countless opportunities for each of us to be good stewards of those gifts and make a positive difference in someone’s life by meeting a need. If you really want to find a way to help, look for organizations who are already serving in ways that align with your passion. Call a school and ask if there’s a struggling student who needs tutoring, check out Big Brothers Big Sisters of America or similar organizations. It doesn’t even have to be local. Now that so many people know how to use video chat, you can volunteer without leaving your house. Don’t devalue what you’re good at and look for ways to share it, equipping, inspiring and encouraging someone, even if you only have an hour a week or an hour a month. You can change someone’s life.
I recently learned of an inmate who is making a difference in individual lives – from inside prison. Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll entered prison illiterate at age 17 and after teaching himself to read, he studied finance and the stock market. When a warden (strongly) encouraged he teach other inmates, he started teaching financial literacy. These days, Robin William’s son, Zak co-teaches with him to support prison rehabilitation programs.
No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
Saw a comment by an HR professional in which they condemned someone for posting a link to a story and then strongly disagreed with people commenting on the post, calling them “disgraceful and dishonorable.” They ended by saying:
“I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”
My first thought was, wait.
Did an HR professional just promote doxing and termination?
This person’s entire career centers around employee development and training. They are a professed Christian and appear to have a lifelong passion for helping people find and reach their potential. Doxing and termination seemed counter to everything they work toward. They had an opportunity to influence and not only did they miss it and waste it, they intentionally threw it away.
It nagged at me. Like, “couldn’t sleep till after 4am” kinda nagged at me. I prayed about whether to reply and if so, what to say. Nothing seemed right. So, the next day, I went back to the post and replied, ditching all the possibilities I had considered and just straightforwardly asked:
What do you mean when you say “I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”
I was genuinely hoping I was wrong and that if I wasn’t, that there might be an opening for dialogue.
Within an hour, they replied:
“The message above is very clear.”
For a fraction of a second, I thought about responding. I prayed. And this thought popped into my mind:
I’m not responsible for the outcome of the conversation.
My responsibilities are, at the very least, to:
1. respond to opportunities to have conversation and
2. ask the Holy Spirit to equip me for the conversation so I can respond instead of react
3. do my best to respond respectfully and humbly.
I genuinely believe part of my calling is to put stones in shoes, and leave the work up to the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and open minds. What that means to me is that, if after a conversation with me, someone is thinking more deeply about something than they were before, then I’ve been a good steward of that particular opportunity.
and I need to let it go so I can get some sleep. Because I need to be alert enough to recognized the next opportunity.
you find what you look for.
What if you questioned your assumptions?
What if you asked questions?
It’s easier and faster to assume you’ve got someone figured out based on your first impression of them. It’s easier and faster to assume you know someone’s motivations based on your interpretation of their words and actions. It’s easier and faster to assume you have no blind spots or biases when it comes to evaluating another person or situation. It’s easier and faster to write someone off as not worth your time or a second thought. as less or an idiot…or a bigot or a zealot. It’s easier and faster to dehumanize someone by categorizing them with an adjective or labeling them with a derogatory term or encapsulating them with a pithy meme or quote.
What if you’re wrong? What does that say about your character? Do you care?
People are inconvenient.
They take time. and effort. and sometimes risk and and humility and vulnerability.
But consider this. People take the faster, easier path when they encounter you.
If you are a person of faith, consider this. If you take the easier, faster path with people in your life – whether in fleeting encounters with strangers, casual interactions with acquaintances or the hard work of closer relationships – are you missing something? What would God have you do in each of those opportunities? What would you do differently if you prayed about it?
Would you choose easy and fast? or risk and humility and vulnerability?
Dismissal? Or an opportunity to be an encouragement and a witness and a testament for the grace and unconditional love God has freely given to you?
Will you attempt to act and speak on your own or will you ask the Holy Spirit to guide and equip you to be His hands and feet and eyes and ears and voice?
Don’t miss a blessing in disguise because you’ve dismissed the possibility that God could use THAT person to speak into your life.
Don’t miss an opportunity to be a blessing in someone’s life for the sake of an easier, faster path to your own goals and comfort zone.
#SeePeople and #edify because everyone is #JustaDifferentKindofBroken