I started writing this piece on February 20th. I stopped for some reason, but I find it to be relevant as we are in the midst of a pandemic with Covid-19. So from where I left off…
I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Faith Forum 2020 in Las Vegas, NV. I was overwhelmed with joy, seeing people operate in their perspective faiths, for the goal of liberating the oppressed; the low-wage worker, the transgender, the single parent, the uneducated child, all of God’s children that we pretend not to see. And what a place to gather, a city where residence struggle for housing and living wages. The moment we got into the Uber, the driver asked us whether we were there to party. Once we told her the reason for our visit, to be in a space with other like-minded loving people of God, she immediately said, “I am taking care of my friend’s four children, because she is homeless and her children were taken away because she had no place for them to live.” One of us gave her information to contact an organization in her city. I don’t know how anyone else felt in the car, but I wanted goodness to happen immediately. I wanted those four children to have their own rooms and a big backyard to run and play. That would not happen today. Unfortunately for many poor families in our country, playing in a backyard is a far away dream. We were dropped off in front of this glamorous hotel. The driver offered us free water just for being a customer. I’m sure each of us offered her a silent prayer.
During the forum, we had the opportunity to hear what others were doing in their perspective communities, transforming neighborhoods, prison reform and speaking to government officials concerning fair education funding. I felt proud to be among what I called great prophets, speaking to the Goliaths, telling them that all people are to be treated fair and these prophets would not back down. It was amazing! But then I had to deal with my shit. As I sat listening, I wondered where have I participated in transforming power. Wanting the four children to have their own room is one thing but how have I helped back home, creating space for prosperity among my neighbor, speaking on behalf of the voiceless? Realizing at that moment, that my wanting was a far away dream as well. Yeah, I could imagine it, the beauty of raising my power fist in the air, the feel good feeling of sitting at the table with all these strong prophets, but I wasn’t doing shit to make a difference. Seriously, nothing!
It dawned on me that I was invited to this table. Invited by good people who believed in the work of justice. Growing up in the 1960 South, whenever you were invited to someone’s house, you were taught to be respectful. You were appreciative and you smile a lot, nodding and being quiet. I understood from this moment that every table I’ve been invited to, if it’s a new job, a new church, a new community, a new school, a new oppressor, whatever. The mere fact of me believing that they invited me in, I should be nice and respectful, quiet and appreciative. At least I was surviving at the benefit of their invitation. I realized that I’ve been sitting at the table all my life believing that I should just be glad to be at a table. God forgive me. I screamed with joy in front of those prophets who invited me and said, “I have a right to be at this table, I don’t need to be nice or kind!” I’m so glad at this table they comforted and smile and said… “We would be glad to be invited to your table!” These were the most powerful words I had heard in my life time. I didn’t know what to do next! But at that moment, I mattered! All the injustice I could never explain, all the pain and guilt of growing up in an oppressing time and accepting scraps from the table because I just wanted to merely survive! At that moment I had power. My table was worthy enough.
As we all go through this pandemic we need to be aware that others will invite us to their table, not physically of course. But they will invite us when they are trying to figure out how to make a living on an unemployment check. They will invite us when there is not enough food in their cupboards, they will invite us when their communities experience gentrification, they will invite us when their health care no longer exist, they will invite us when they are unable to bury their child due to senseless gun violence. And they will invite us as Covid-19 tears apart all they have worked for. I never sat down at the table of the Uber driver taking care of four children. I heard her and smile, nod. Maybe none of us that day, actually took time to sit at her table. It requires the discomfort to leave ours, knowing that we may not have all the answers or knowing that maybe just sitting with her trouble is all that’s required. Maybe we didn’t think her table was worthy enough or maybe we just wanted to feel good, smile, nod and dream of what can be instead of dealing with the ugliness of what is. The Uber driver table is worthy. The four children’s table is worthy. The homeless mom’s table is worthy. Sitting at the table means that you will probably get food thrown on you, you may not like the main dish, the kool-aid may not be sweet enough, but hey, deal with! Don’t you think they’ve sat at your table long enough?
Sit at someone’s table where life happens and trouble comes. Don’t rush through the meal and conversation; it is a worthy table with worthy people.