Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To Those Forever Gone

The eleventh morning of your absence
I feel it just as strongly as the first
Morning after the world went awry.

I keep thinking this must be a mistake
          to lose so many smiles
          to lose so many arms
we who remain will forever
miss your charms:

To the hundreds that showed courage
we used to take you for granted as we raced
around our world
sometimes getting annoyed with that sound
and lights that flash and twirl.

The heroes on the plane sealed their fate
to save thousands if not more.

Your sudden absence
prompts me to say
I love you
to everyone.
Yes, to everyone.
Every one.

In the continuing wake of your absence
May your strength be remembered as freedom.

May you strengthen us to be the souls on earth we need to be.

From the forthcoming collection: G!D Went Looking for Me Today

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2013

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

From Choosing Battles to Creating Opportunities

For those who do not know, this evening begins the Jewish New Year. At sundown, through candle lighting, blessings, prayers and food (gotta have food!), Jews around the world will celebrate creation and welcome the Jewish year 5774.

Among the rituals and customs in which we partake is seeking atonement: from the Divine One for offenses against God and from other people for offenses against them. In either case, it matters not whether we intended to offend. The only matter is the impact of our action or inaction. 

In discussions of my last blog "What it Takes", several people have commented on the line "I will not allow you to be comfortable with your biases because I care about you." wanting to know how I live into that commitment. "After all," the conversation usually continues, "don't you have to pick and choose your battles?"

For me the answer is: No. I have come to understand that battles pick and choose me. Therefore, my choice is how I will live with my response to the situation presented? Simply put: 

  • If I choose to say nothing, will I "kick" myself for the next however many years for my silence. 
  • If I choose to say something, and it does not go well, am I willing to engage to deepen understanding and/or let it go if the "offender" takes on the role of victim or refuses my assessment?
  • If I choose to say something, can I do so with an open heart and an engaging manner that holds the "offender" in esteem?
  • If I choose to say something, can I do so with an open heart and engaging manner knowing that some people will get it, some people will not, some people will scapegoat me for shining light and some people will only support me out of the sight of others. Lastly, if it is a work or educational situation, I know that one of the consequences could be that I will marginalized, ganged up on and/or further abused with the ultimate goal being to organize me out of my job or cohort - and can I live with that?

After many years of accepting the "pick your battles" pablum, one day I realized that the real question is: Who do I want to be in response to the little things that cut away at our collective humanity everyday? In discovering the answer to that question, I also looked to the Torah commandment that we love our neighbor; that we love the stranger. 

As I shared last year, one of the things I discovered is that the Divine One expects us to love ourselves - not with ego-centered inflated love. The self love of which I speak is the recognition of our humanity; the acceptance of our imperfection. If we proceed in our lives with good intentions, we will assume that others have good intentions. If we recognize that we make mistakes and show ourselves compassion, we can have compassion for others when they make mistakes. If we can recall situations in which, despite our intentions, our words or actions did not land as intended  - or our mouth got ahead of our good sense or we really did not know - what is the compassion with which we would have liked or would like to be treated?

On the last point, I offer the response of my friend Michael Twitty to Paula Deen's troubles and my response to the reactions Brad Paisley received to his song Accidental Racist. Though Deen's and Paisley's situations were very different, I was fascinated by how some of the same people who skewered Paisley for his honesty defended Deen's lack of honesty.

All of this is to say we are a complicated people. We do not come with instructions on how to see what we do not see. We can only welcome the opportunity to have our eyes opened, embracing the momentary discomfort and welcome the opportunity to open the eyes of another - perhaps with more compassion than we were shown. Yes, we will encounter bad actors, but that is not an excuse for us to be bad in reaction to their badness.

As you move into the New Jewish Year or move to the end of the secular year, I invite you to change your vision: instead of seeing battles see opportunities to share your compassion and knowledge; to open doors and bring healing. 

As we look to grow into who we want to be, consider that it is time to look into the dark corners of our emotional closets and face ourselves with compassion and love so that we can bring more compassion and love and light into the world. We may not live to see the end of bigotry and ignorance in our lifetimes, however, I firmly believe we can continue to nurture the spiritual and social ground that will allow such a day to blossom. (Good food helps, too!)

To book Sabrina Sojourner as a speaker or trainer on diversity, leadership or another subject for your group or organization, contact her at ssojourner at ssellc [dot] net. 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2013