My friend Gavin Rogers is one of the pastors at Travis Park United Methodist Church here in San Antonio. He recently posted photos of a trip he took to meet up with the caravan of Central American asylum-seekers making their way toward the U.S. You can read about his experience HERE.
As I looked over his photos and read his social media posts, it got me to thinking about how we respond not only to a caravan of people seeking a better life, but to anyone that disrupts the way we think the world should be.
Henry David Thoreau wrote:
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?”
Gavin’s journey south to meet up with the caravan is a great example of looking through another’s eyes. Rather than demanding someone understand his perspective, he’s putting aside his privileged vantage point and literally walking and standing with the marginalized. Instead of listening to the pundits talk about the caravan, he went to hear their story firsthand.
I’m just going to throw this out there. I’m not looking for a debate or anything. These are just some thoughts I wanted to pass along to you. If you’ve already done this, great. If you haven’t, please consider doing so. If you don’t care to do it, that’s your prerogative.
Several years ago, at the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement, I decided that rather than listening to pundits from either side or listening to or reading news articles, I was going to take a different path to understand what is going on. I approached a couple of my black friends, Jon Pyle and Anthony Malone, both of whom worked at the church where I was on staff. We had lunch and began a conversation. I asked them to tell me what I didn’t know about being black. I disciplined myself not to respond, not debate, not try and counter…just listen.
Then I went to a Black Lives Matter gathering here in San Antonio where I engaged with those in attendance. Again, I asked questions and just listened. I learned things I never knew. It broke my heart to hear the stories I’ve heard not only from strangers but from people I know.
I started taking that approach with others; women, members of the LGBTQ community, other minorities and members of my own ethnic group, anyone who was willing just to tell me their story. That’s when the lights started to go on for me. It’s funny what happens when you stop listening to talking heads and start listening to actual people over a cup of coffee or a beer or a meal.
The stories were no longer something I read about or heard about. These were the stories of people I know, people I respect, people I love. The biggest thing I learned was that just because a problem doesn’t exist for me personally doesn’t mean a problem doesn’t exist. Anyone who would begin to say that there are absolutely no systemic problems that marginalize certain groups in our society is utterly and dangerously blind to history and facts.
In San Antonio, if you refer to the “west side” of town, everyone who has been here for any length of time knows what that means. I’m sure every city has their own “west side” of town. In San Antonio, it is predominantly occupied by Latinx families, a perceived higher crime rate, dangerous streets, and homes that have not been kept up very well.
Not long about I had a long conversation with our city manager about the history of our San Antonio and how it was set up in its earliest days. For anyone to think the “west side” is the way it is just because people don’t know how to take care of their neighborhoods would be ignorant of how our city was set up regarding infrastructure, availability of services, and basic planning.
But that’s another conversation.
Learning about the marginalized and disenfranchised people in our society has been a journey for me that is still in process. I’m not sure there will ever be an endpoint, but I do know that I will absolutely advocate for equal opportunity…TRULY equal opportunity.
I have no interest in equality of outcome. I don’t believe in it. I don’t want to see it mandated. But I do want to see everyone have absolutely equal access to the tools they need to reach their goals. That is not happening right now.
I’m going to get off my soapbox now, but from wherever you are on the spectrum, press on. Keep doing good things. Love each other.