Sunday, February 13, 2011

A thank you to Myrlie Evers

Hello, my friends...

Here I sit, on a gloomy Sunday. Alone with my thoughts, and "The Ghosts of Mississippi" in the background - courtesy of the Toronto Public Library. I have watched this movie over and over and over. There is something about it that calls out to me. Demands to be watched; to be heard and to be understood. It holds my rapt attention; yet I can't seem to figure out why.

Is it the cinematography? Maybe. It is a beautiful picture. The acting? There certainly is something captivating about seeing Myrlie Evers brought to the screen. Each and every time the music from the opening sequence brings an ache to my soul and a twist in my gut.

But something tells me that there is more to the way I am feeling than the scenery, the music and the acting. Ms. Evers carried on her husband's fight for equality, peace and justice for more than 25 years after he was killed by Byron de la Beckwith. She and others, stood firm on what was right and fair. For as long as it took. The second time I watched this, I wondered if Ms. Evers felt the hopelessness and futility of her battle; if she ever wanted to just lay down the battle axe and let Medgar rest. I've wondered if she has ever been overcome with despair; thought that the destination just wasn't worth the journey.

I can't comment on that. I don't personally know Ms. Myrlie Evers. I don't know what she felt in the quarter century after her husband's death, and journey to justice.

An "aha!" moment, I think. It's not the pictures, the acting or the music. It's the fight. Taking a hit; falling down. But always getting back up. Toothless and bloody - but standing up nonetheless.

I have had many, many moments in my life where I have felt that the battle is not worth fighting. Its futility is all too clear to me. The challenge is insurmountable - you may as well ask me to cure cancer.

President Kennedy said, "those who act boldly recognize right as well as reality." You must be willing to take bold, and uncompromising steps to stand for what is right.

Does what you do boldly still count when your 'steps' are taken sitting down?

I worry. I worry that it does not, or is at least diminished.

Have you ever wept on a subway train? The hurt becomes so overwhelming that you feel like you'll explode, ripping from the inside out. And yet, you are powerless to push back against the weight holding you down; your soul feels so heavy that you wonder if you will ever feel lightness and joy again.

I have.

Lately, I've felt as though the weight of the world is upon me. I am a strong, educated woman. I am a lucky woman. By most measures, most people would see me as successful. I have a job that I love, a strong and healthy marriage. Our home is a nurturing one where everyone is safe to be whomever they please. I am so proud of that fact, in and of itself.

But in all of this, I feel that my own steps are diminished.

So where am I going with this? I'm not sure that even I know that. But I know that somehow, it comes back to what I thought was "Paying it Forward".

I have thought about and spoken out about the idea of "Paying it Forward". Every day acts of kindness that have the power to change someone's life. Do they really? Or do they have more diminishing and dehumanizing power than we realize? Are we really cognizant of the fact that what we think might be kindness is really undermining personhood?

I didn't think of this possibility until that day, on the train. I was feeling defeated in my efforts to try and leave my mark on this world - to help people help themselves to change their own lives.

Then a young man standing next to me said, "here. Take my mitts." I told him that I already had some, and I "didn't need them". I was overcome with shame.

I remember that man, standing outside of Shopper's Drug Mart when I gave him my gloves and hat on a winter night in 2008. I remember the woman I gave my earrings to...the woman I gave a subway token to in the grocery store...the man I invited in to a restaurant for lunch. Did they feel the same shame that I did?

I will always wonder about that now.

Then, the young man asked me if I would like him to "pray for me". Usually I am quite good at kindly and politely declining requests for prayer. My shame was intensified in a way that I have never experienced before. I could feel all of those eyes on me; each and every one of them filled with pity.

Charles Evers told Bobby DeLaughter about Robert Johnson, the night before the final trial. Robert Johnson, King of the Delta Blues, was a blues guitar player whom was rumoured to have 'sold his soul to the devil to play guitar like that'.

In that moment, I would have sold my soul. To get up and walk away from that chair; I would give anything. I wanted to die.

It is my prison. I am imprisoned; but part of a world that pretends I am free. That I am equal.

President Kennedy said in his 1963 Civil Rights address, that "if a man cannot enjoy a full and free life, who among him would be content to have the color of his skin changed?"

If I cannot be free to enjoy a full and free life who among me would be content to trade places with me?

I expect that I will receive a great many comments about just how fortunate I really am. I do not turn away from my blessings, nor do I fail to recognize the struggles of others and their own pain. I will be right there with you to carry it, should you want me there.

My struggle is plain. There for the world to see. I have no choice.

No choice but to pick up, carry on, and keep on fighting. To be one of "those who act boldly, recognizing right as well as reality."

No matter how long it takes. I guess I have Myrlie to thank for that.

Goodnight, lovlies. I love you all, very much...xo