Time To Get Uncomfortable
Today. I loaded up my kiddos and headed towards the seed store to buy potato starts for the garden. We love visiting Gramlings in Tallahassee. Gramlings is a garden store housed in an old warehouse. The roof is rusty. The floors are old strong wood and the doors are always wide open. We head that way a few times a year to reload on seeds. The guys there are so nice and helpful. They weigh out our seeds, scoop them into brown paper bags, label and tape shut. The cash register is old but they have a visa machine just in case.
We drove at a stop and go pace through town. As we got closer to the capital, we could see there was a lot of activity. Even a helicopter in the air. The first thing we saw were piles of police. Straight faced, lined up in rows. We were at a red light for a minute and I saw a minute too much.
White angry people holding signs screaming and spitting in a rage — ranting that this was their land - that they built it. Their signs said “Florida Sovereignty”. On the other line of police men, there was another crowd of people holding signs in other languages, signs that said “Chill Out.” Others said “We all belong here.” Another, “NO KKK” I couldn’t believe what I saw. My kids were confused. They weren’t sure what to make of it. I literally choked up when I opened my mouth to explain. I thought I might throw up. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. People wringing out rags of hate, people, confused by poverty and pain and pushing it in the wrong direction. I was still dumb founded when we walked into the seed store.
I couldn’t really see straight or think straight. The kids were pulling at me to come pick the potatoes. One of the guys asked if I was okay. I told him I was a little shook up from driving past the capital. They nodded sadly with understanding and quietly helped us.
And as we stood there, a tall African American walked into the store. He was totally content and happy listening to music and went straight to what he was looking for —a chemical free pesticide. He bought it and went on his way.
He probably didn’t even know about the rally. He’d arrived and left from the other direction. I had a deep desire to run up to him and hug him and tell him I was so happy to be in the store with him and so happy to stand there with him. I wanted to know his name and hear his story. I wanted to take him to lunch. Maybe I should have. And really, I looked around and I wished I had a big picnic blanket and a basket full of food and I wish I could have invited all of the people in the store to a picnic right there on the old wood floors. I wish I could have gone and invited all the protestors to a picnic. Because then they would meet each other as people with stories and lives and families and talents and ideas.
After we had our potatoes, we played at a nearby park for over and hour. When we drove back by the capital, the crowds were bigger and louder and messier. My kids were uncomfortable and sad and concerned. They were concerned for the police men and the young kids and they asked when they would stop. They asked if their throats hurt and if they were hungry. At lunch William kept listing all the things he saw there. I was amazed at all the details they took in. The trumpets, the megaphones, the signs, the screams, the photographers, the people in a hurry, the people stopping.
I wish they had not seen that scene because I wish it wasn’t happening. I can’t believe it is happening. But, because we did, and because it is happening, I can’t silently sit and fume. I want to plead with all of you to walk humbly and show mercy and look to see how your life segregates, how your life divides. I know mine does even though I think I’m not, I do. It is comfortable to take care of myself and to be with people like myself. I can think I'm so great because I wasn’t protesting and holding a sign full of hate, but silence isn’t loving my neighbor.
Today, I feel more strongly than ever to focus on loving my neighbor as myself. This will not go away unless we fight back by knowing and loving and not dividing. We must protest this hate with the way we live our lives and it isn’t going to be comfortable. I’m ready to get uncomfortable!