Mommies in Black and White

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Month: March 2016

“He wants to build a wall, mom”

Things I’ve heard come out of my kids’ mouths over the last couple months:

“He’s mean.”

“He wants kick people out of this country.”

“Why does he talk like that?”

“That’s not very respectful.”

“Is he going to be President?”

…Guess who?

“Trump” has penetrated the vocabulary and conversation in our home – and not in a good way. I’ve never heard a 5 and 8 year old with such strong opinions about whom they DON’T want to be the next president.

Here’s the lesson: They are picking up on news stories I have in the background, my exasperated sighs and frustrated comments. They are discussing this stuff with their “buddies” at school. My kids, 5 and 8 years old, are seeing, hearing, and internalizing what is happening with our presidential election – at least as it relates to one of the candidates.

While my initial reaction is “yikes, I wish they didn’t see, know or think about this stuff” I also see the opportunity – opportunity to be honest about the process, to highlight the fact that people have different perspectives and views, to reflect on what our family values are and why. This is an opportunity to expose them to larger social and community lessons about tolerance, acceptance, and compassion and how that does or doesn’t come to life in people’s words and actions.

So, we talk about it. I’ve tried to pause each time I hear one of their anti-Trump comments. We take a minute to unpack it. To ask why he might have said something, to look for truths or untruths in opinions and comments my children share.

Here’s what it comes down to. I DON’T want to teach them to judge or make assumptions about another person’s motives or intent. I DO want to teach them to be rooted in our family’s value system, while recognizing and respecting others might have different values.

As a family, we took time a year ago to define our values and post them in our living room. They are: healthy, helpful, respectful, and kind. This has proven a helpful discipline tool as well as a teaching tool for situations like “Trump” talk. As we grapple with making sense of behaviors, understanding if we agree or disagree with comments or opinions, we check against our posted values.

My hope for us all is that, while difficult, we can keep our discussion and conversations about the impending election positive, hopeful, and most importantly respectful. Our kids are sponges – they mirror what they see and hear. Our reactions and comments are teaching them how to “be” in a democratic society. We will be working on this in our household. Goodbye sighs and frustrated comments.

Lost in translation: Trapped in a closet

Often, when refugees reach safe harbor with relatives in the United States there is a sense of bittersweet relief. The circumstances can be unimaginable.

In the late 90s, Liberia was in another Civil War led by dictator, Charles Taylor. My  grandmother and her sister fled to Minnesota in order to escape Taylor’s regime. They found a safe haven at my aunt and uncle’s, the same place my family was staying.

My  grandma and her sister were often isolated during the day while all the grown folks went to work and my sisters and I went to school. They loved every soap opera on TV and admired Oprah.

One day after school my grandma and her sister had concerned looks on their faces. I thought something terrible must have happened back home. They shared with me that Oprah was going to have this woman named Ellen on her show. They explained, Ellen was “trapped in some closet and is going to come out of it.” They were praying for her. I smiled, but was too embarrassed to explain that Ellen was not literally trapped in “a closet.” I left the explaining to my uncle.

When my uncle got home from work he explained to our elders what “coming out of the closet” meant. They laughed and asked, “Why didn’t they just say that in the first place?” With tears of laughter my two elderly beacons of hope settled a little further into life in America.

#ellendegeneres #liberia

 

Sunday Morning Inspiration

This week I was struggling. Struggling to find something to write about. It wasn’t for lack of topics or ability to find something I desired to share or repost. I just didn’t feel inspired. I didn’t experience that bug on my shoulder or voice in my head that said, “you have to write about this” or “you have to share that.”

This morning changed that. I was listening to our pastor speak about the purpose and meaning of communion. I’ve written frequently about lenses and how our individual experiences shape the lens through which we see the world. Shape the meaning of things, the truths that we experience and perceive. I still hold firm to this. But, sometimes we can get stuck here. In knowing what we know. In fighting for our beliefs and our truths.

This morning reminded me of a key part of our existence. It’s not religious in nature. It’s not about rules and rites and rituals. It’s about humanness. Our purpose and place in this crazy, often overwhelming world. It’s about COMMUNITY–the communal experience of life.

As I reflected on this idea I saw the importance of understanding our own truths, but also recognizing how those truths are influenced by and situated within a community of truths. How we cannot and should not live in this life as individuals firm in our beliefs, but as members of a community, willing to absorb others’ truths and see through a different lens. Willing to listen, learn, and adjust accordingly so we can be a little closer to those around us–as tough as this may be.

As Jebeh and I come together to share, to make sense of the things we see, the experiences we have and the challenges we face, we are living them as a communal experience. We are sharing them to help each other make sense of the world around us. We are sharing to be a part of the larger conversation, to start conversations. To move us all toward a more communal experience of the issues we raise. To create a space where truth (about race, diversity, multiculturalism, privilege) can be a shared experience with a shared meaning. In sharing we (all of us) move toward a more holistic experience of this life. One that is richer and fuller and focused on the value and strength of community.

So, thank you for being here, for being a part of the conversation, for sharing your ideas, for engaging with those around you. Keep building, keep engaging, keep listening, and keep adjusting. We will all benefit from the strength of the community we build.

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