I want to say something, but what I have to say never feels like enough. Or, it seems like too much. I feel like I am sitting amidst some great divide and I can see both sides but can’t reach my arms far enough either way. I want to be a bridge, but I can’t stretch fully from one side to the other on my own. If I stay where I am, it seems I am too far away to be claimed by anyone. I find I am too far away to lay my hand on anyone’s shoulder, or to hug anyone to my chest. I feel the world telling me that if I want to be part of anything, I have to move, I have to completely abandon the other side out of solidarity. I have to draw a hard line. I have to choose. But I know from somewhere deep within that I can’t choose against people. I am for people, unbelievably – all the people. Whichever way I move separates me farther from the other side. The closer I move towards one side, the less anyone from the other side can see me or hear me or even be bothered by me and the less I can see them, hear them, or be bothered by them. It’s not a real solution for me. I have tried it some and while it wasn’t easy (damage was done), it still came off the easy way out for me because I wasn’t doing what I knew I was supposed to do, I was doing what some noise compelled me to. What I know for myself is that to simply choose a side is not enough. To simply pick a label or a hashtag or a cause is not enough. These things must be ripped out from the roots and we’ll never get deep enough to get to the roots if we aren’t within arms reach.
I’m sure getting to the roots isn’t everyone’s thing they are supposed to do – we all have our gifts and strengths but I do know that getting deep down and to the roots is one of my gifts and strengths. It’s what I did before I went to school to learn more about how to do it and it’s what I did for work for years and it’s just what I can do. But I can’t do it if I’m too far away, if I’m picking sides. To dig deep and find out the “whys” you have to be in the middle of it with people. To help people seek, discover, or design a solution or resolution, you have to actually see what’s going on. You have to have bear witness. To problem solve, you have to actually understand the full spectrum of the problem at hand. There’s rarely ever one simple thing that is wrong or that needs to be overcome whether we are talking about one person’s life or an entire community or culture. If whole systems are broken, they can not be fixed by simply replacing a few parts. They can’t just be smashed to the ground either without creating major collateral damage and leaving the people that depend upon the faulty system in the lurch and in worse shape than before (destabilizing a large group of vulnerable people is never a good idea). Anger is not unfounded in these situations, but it is also not the energy that something can be improved with. To make something work better, you have to love it so much that you will work slowly and determinedly to adjust and tweak and cleanse and build and tear down and re-build with care and passion and commitment that won’t wane at the first sign of trouble.
If you love your people and the people that your people love and the people that those people love and so on and so forth, then there is work to be done and there is enough work for everyone willing.
Maybe my work is the work of someone who stands in the middle and reaches towards both ends and pulls. We are so chopped up and divided here, there has to be a bridge. I can’t do it alone, I would never even pretend that I can, but there are other people here, aren’t there? Are you one of those people? People who believe in reconciliation? People who believe in something better? People who connect somehow to both ends and somehow ended up here in the middle? Aren’t there people on either end throwing out ropes to us here in the middle? Can’t we pull this together? There are plenty of people who think it’s a waste of time to try, but I’ve never been one of those people.
I hate the middle because it’s messy and dirty and confusing and frustrating, but the middle is where I find myself, all the time. Maybe it’s where I’m called to.
I confess I’ve spent a lot of time laying low because this is exhausting and I feel unequipped and I haven’t been willing to say “Hey, I’m here, ready to pull, throw me a rope” because I don’t really know what the rope would be and I don’t really know how long I can pull and I don’t really know what to do if I actually succeed at bringing any two sides closer to one another. But maybe that’s not my call. Maybe my only call is to be here, holding out my arms, saying, “We can do better. Throw me your rope”.