She held her head in her hands and let out a little sob. With her propensity for, well, a little drama, and a personality that could suit a 22-year-old, sometimes I forget, she is only eight years old. And this wasn’t drama, her heart had been broken.
It is for this very moment! This is why we eat supper around the table together. Of course not all the time. And many nights supper (yes I live in the South I say supper) is a variety of left-overs, or cheap pizza sprinkled with some slightly forced conversation—hardly ever without silliness and the abrupt dismissal and how much longer until they are in bed?
But this was the night you wait for as parents:
the time when your child asks you if you know what holding up your middle finger means.
Middle fingers ablaze she said someone made fun of her for using her middle finger today in class. Each sing-song word ending in the form of a question, “Uuuuuuuummmmm, Evelyn, you used your middle finger!” after she had pointed to a math problem with the harmless tall-man.
“Why didn’t you tell me about it!” with her flat-out accusing tone. As if she isn’t sometimes the one sing-songing. And as if our duty is to inform her of any dirty, inappropriate, or rude expression as a safeguard from all harassment she could receive at public school. Actually, we thought we had done really well covering pig Latin, S-E-X, four letter words, and Weird Al Yankovic.
“There is nothing wrong with my middle finger!”
“That’s right baby, absolutely nothing wrong.”
“Why are there so many rules?!! I can’t use my middle finger… I can’t…” (now, I don’t remember exactly what else she listed here, but I’m pretty sure it had to do with having to wear clothes.)
She was not amused when I proposed as her response next time, “Oh you think this is naughty?? How silly. The middle finger is my symbol for unicorns riding along rainbows,” while making a large arch with her hand.
Oh that we could stay little forever. Blissfully ignorant, all unicorns and rainbows.
Do you wonder if that is why 2016 pissed many of us off so much? Because it ripped the Band-Aid from the “ache” TV binges can never heal. War, death, fear, hatred, lies, age, brokenness…all the things we want to insulate ourselves from are staring at us in the mirror. Not only that, it seems like all the ideas we had locked down, are once again up for debate.
I do not think this is a loss of innocence. I think we are waking up. Could it be this moment in history is an invitation into something more? Something a little more daring and a little less certain?
Whether we like it or not, we are in this thing together. Every one of us on this planet bears the image of Love. And I keep reminding myself, Jesus didn’t say, “America, YOU have it all figured out! Carry on my shining city on the hill for the rest of the world to admire and imitate!”
Nah. He told His people, “In my Kingdom, the outcasts are blessed, the needy and broken are the kings and queens. And guess what? YOU ARE ALL NEEDY AND BROKEN. Your tidiness cannot save you from yourselves. We are going to break some rules you and me. And when you live this upside down way, the way of righting the wrong, the world will HATE you. But don’t let that stop you. Love their sorry asses anyway, just like I love you.” I am no scholar, but I am pretty sure this sums up the Gospel of Matthew.
We choose to use the events of these days as an opportunity to teach our kids how good men treat women and how good women treat men. That it is not our job to tell someone how they feel is wrong and to get over it. We teach them that wealth, walls, and nationalism is not what casts out fear-only love can do that. We teach them to join the long march toward justice, and that unity does not mean “same.” We teach them that we are not stronger when we make fun of comb-overs and ten-year olds at Presidential Inaugurations. (Did you see the sweetness that was happening over Trump’s shoulder while the leaders of our country were negotiating which of the IDENTICAL AND I’M SURE OUTRAGEOUSLY EXPENSIVE PENS went to whom? The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as those kids.) Vulgarity begets vulgarity and dignity overcombs it. (I am a sinner.)
This is our invitation to stop feeling good about ourselves for the wrong reasons, to stop wishing things go could back to another time when we settled for illusion, and to stop hiding behind self-righteous-anger-infused Facebook posts so we can actually start looking each other in the eyes, and sit at the table together for some good ol’ -albeit sometimes forced-conversation.
I’ll bring pizza.
Some of us are just now waking up to some long, difficult battles for hope and justice. Join me in following Osheta Moore for Shalom Steps or Kathy Escobar for wisdom on how to be unified and still diversified.