I have struggled for most of my adult life not knowing how I could make a bigger difference in the world. A world that is so full of injustices every day. Much of my background is working in various service industries and has given me the view that we are often not very kind to one another, especially those who might be working in service to us. That lack of respect for each of our presence can wear on you which is partially why I felt called to start working toward self-renewal.
In our current state of affairs there is much attention being given to how much differently and unjustly our black brothers and sisters are treated not only by police but in our communities all across the country. I am so grateful that so many are standing up to make sure those in positions of leadership can facilitate some meaningful change. But it doesn’t go far enough to just change the behaviors of others. It can’t. We must go even further…into our own hearts.
The calls for change must deepen in more of us in order to make a lasting, meaningful difference. We must build on progress. As a white man I am privileged to feel safe most every where I go, and as a gay man I also know how unsafe it can feel for just me being the person I am. It is in the lessons of the gay rights movement that I am pulling my own path forward to dealing with how I can serve better today.
Back in the late 1970’s, gay activists and leaders like Harvey Milk encouraged gays and lesbians across California to come out to everyone that would listen. It was at this time that he traveled around the state to publicly debate the man behind an amendment to the California constitution that would fire school teachers for being gay. At the time the amendment looked like it would pass easily. I see the public demonstrations now for Black Lives Matter being one part of a multifaceted solution. But in order to truly change hearts and actions, work must be done in sharing stories and love for one another each and every day.
Not only did that amendment fail, but I firmly believe that the reason why gay marriage is possible in my adult life is that not only was there tremendous activism, but so many in the PRIDE communities across the country shared their stories of how they love. Who they love and how they express themselves may be different, but how they love is universal to us all. Could sharing love be something missing from civil rights movement and our search for equality across all colors of skin and race? I’m not here to suggest that protests and marches aren’t done in love. What we do individually needs to come from more love.
As I reflected back on how I was showing up, it became crystal clear that for racial injustice I was rarely showing up with love. My friend Justin Patton teaches about how we lead differently in our lives when we come from one of three core emotions: fear, empathy, or love. He says that fear is in the basement, empathy in the lobby, and love in the penthouse. It is up to us to remember how to press the elevator button when we recognize we need to go up.
In my discernment about my own showing up for black lives matters, I have been mainly listening and judging from fear or empathy. I’ve been fearful for doing or saying the wrong thing. I know empathy well and always considered it to be one of my best gifts. But I have not been using one of the truest gifts we all have which is love. To my friends who are reading this and going, “DUH!”, I know. This feels ridiculous. But I think there might be others that need to hear it. We have to keep going deeper into our greatness and capacity for love.
So what does loving more look like? For me, I’m at my best when I’m present, compassionate, and vulnerable. It’s going to be focusing on every opportunity during my day to listen and connect, and show others how much I value them. It means being brave and saying hello to strangers and being transparent with what’s going on in my heart even when my truth might be uncomfortable. It’ll also mean getting even clearer and honoring my and other’s boundaries.
How do you show up at your best? It’s okay that you are still figuring out how to serve our black friends. Maybe you start with more listening and empathy and work towards love. Many will give you lots of grace because you are trying. Judge yourself and keep calling yourself to greatness. Find self-renewal when you get down so that you can rise even further. The fuller your heart, the fuller you’ll serve. Let’s aim higher together and share more love. Every damn day.
I’m choosing to hear the cries for black lives matter not just to help more people live. I want more people to feel loving and loved, and for their lives to be filled with meaning and hope. I’ve decided to call it by how I’m wanting to act: Black love matters. Black love matters because all love matters.
With love and light,
Fairy Godfather of Wellness