By Lisa Huddleston
Today I stayed at the table in our classroom at the Adult Learning Center during the break time. Many had left the room, and those of us who remained were a diverse group: a young woman from Mexico, a middle-aged man from Egypt, an African American woman in her forties, and me—a mid-50’s white woman. Two of the four of us were hoping to become American citizens, and two of us were born with that privilege.
Sadly I listened as my friends shared stories of delay and prejudice and discouragement. One told a story of a young son crying when he came home from school and asking his parents why he had to have brown skin. Another told a story about a random encounter in a McDonald’s playground in which a complete stranger declared in front of the children that she “did not like Mexicans.” And still another talked with frustration about waiting for over 16 years and still not being accepted as a citizen of this country. And I literally wept.
I wept because people don’t take the time to get to know each other. I wept because until I began working as a volunteer at the center, I frankly didn’t care enough about the issues of immigration. I wept, because I also unbelievably still heard prejudice being voiced by one who sat at the table with us. And I still feel like weeping for that one who has not yet received ears to hear the stories of the rest.
When I got home I decided to unwind with some general time-wasting on Facebook, and I wept again as I saw ignorant posts pointing fingers at the people of Baltimore whom they do not know and assigning blame to those whose stories they have not taken the time to hear. And, oh God, it makes me sad. It should not be “us against them.” Some of them are more like us than some of us are. (Read it carefully—it does make sense whether you think you are an “us” or a “them.”) I find much more in common with the hearts and motivations and stories of those with whom I shared my break today than I do with a group simply segregated by the colors of our skin.
The recent protest cry in the face of this country’s racial unrest is “Black Lives Matter!” I agree, and I know that I am not alone in voicing this truth. Black lives do matter—as do brown lives and white lives and Muslim lives and Christian lives and every life God has placed upon this planet. How I wish we could sit around the table and learn each other’s names and listen to each other’s stories and find the compassion to weep over the hurts we each one have suffered. For indeed, we all are precious in His sight.
I am thankful for work that has helped me to see with new eyes—Ukrainian, Chinese, Panamanian, Mexican, and American. Brown eyes and blue eyes and green eyes. Round eyes and almond eyes. Eyes with thick black lashes and eyes with a fringe of strawberry blonde. All eyes that weep when we or our families suffer unjustly through a lack of understanding and through hate.
I am thankful for a seat at the table. Won’t you, please, pull up a chair?