When I was a little girl, I would hear the old people around me say, “This world ain’t our home.” They were referring to Heaven being our final destination and when trouble comes, this phrase was a reminder not to worry because we ain’t staying here. But now that I have reached that beautiful age of those old people, I would have to disagree with them. This world is our home and regardless of the final destination or the final resting place, at this moment, in this time, this world is where we are. Therefore, this place where we live and breathe now, matters. This place where we live, breathe, dance, sing, make passionate love, and raise our families is really all that we have, at this moment. If there is another world somewhere out there, well, fine, but I’m pretty sure God doesn’t expect for us to wait until we die to see the beauty of what can be.
We say things like, when we get to Heaven, there will be rejoicing and everyone will get along, everyone will be singing, there will be no more war and hatred. Doesn’t that sound a little uncaring and an excuse not to care for each other in the place we are now? Do I really only care about my own selfish salvation that steers me away from engaging with those who don’t think the same way I do or believe life the same way I do? Is that what Jesus really has taught us? Only for us to prepare ourselves to reach a final heavenly destination? How are we being in the world? How are we loving in the world? How are we taking care of this world that was created for us, providing places to ride our tricycles as little children, kissing our first love and enjoying the sweetness of a southern peach?
This world is our home, created for us by a Creator who loves and cares for us, so the least we can do now is honor this place, this world, by calling it “home.” Put out the welcome mat, invite others in, take care of each other, take care of this world. It’s all we got, for now.
The Holiday season is upon us. This time last year, the Christmas tree was up, decorated with our favorite ornaments and the African nativity set was brought up from the basement placed on the mantle where it could be admired. As of today, there is no tree and the nativity set is still in the basement collecting dust. Maybe tomorrow I will unwrap the tangled Christmas lights? Maybe? There is no rush.
I listened to car horns blowing in traffic, irritated drivers trying to reach the places that held the items they need to buy for friends and love ones. Unfriendly walkers moving at a fast pace, head down, not making eye contact with anyone, because they are on a mission to beat time. It is wonderful to see people out again and yes we are still in a pandemic and yes we must still be safe. And yes, we have returned to a sense of normalcy; the normalcy of once again, not seeing each other and the normalcy of only being concern with our single agendas, the normalcy of rushing that we end up missing the most delicate things of life. Maybe the squirrels can help us recall what it is to experience what it feels like to be fully alive.
Walking with all the car noise and chatter around me, I heard a ruffling in leaves that were raked in a pile. Two squirrels were running and playing with each other; jumping in and out of the pile of leaves. When I got close, they stopped and got quiet until I passed by. Once I passed, the squirrels returned to their joy of running and jumping, chasing each other and being free. For a moment, I was a little jealous of the squirrels enjoying the unseasonal warm weather. For a moment, I didn’t want to return to normalcy as I remembered it.
It’s sunny in Philadelphia! And I am glad that the snow is melting, not to say we won’t see snow again before Spring, but this sun is absolutely beautiful. It shines on my dusty floors and dirty windows, displaying that my cleaning days have been void or none really. But the ray of sun makes the dust dance with joy.
We have been inside our homes for a long time. We have been with our children, spouse, friends, and unfortunately even enemies, in the same space, every second, every minute, every hour, every day and to be honest, we are sick and tired of it. Some of us have made our way to the outside, just not to the grocery store or to take a walk, but courageously to do normal things we use to, like siting in a restaurant, eating and drinking cocktails. I’m not there yet, but to those who have done this fabulous thing, I salute you; keep your mask on please! But if I may, let me point to something we probably never paid much attention to and have taken it somewhat for granted. Dust!
Who thinks about dust?! Well apparently I do? Sounds like I may have too much time on my hands. Anyway! The sun shining on my hard wood floors, that are about a hundred years old, displays dust that rolls from one corner to the next. But the dust is a reminder that life is steady happening around us. The dry skin cells that falls from our bodies, the environment that leaks through the old windows; the last bit of snow we shake off our boots and cracks in our house we don’t even recognize is there, shows us that inside the places we live are really the places we really live! The dust shows us the place in which we are showing up in our lives and in the lives of others. In the homes we have built, the places where we are our truest selves. The dust reminds us that the laughter we shared on a ZOOM call stays in the air of our home and bounces from one wall to another. The dust reminds us of the living room sofa, sitting with the whole family when everyone finally decided on the same movie to watch. The dust reminds us of the tears our older child shed when her senior class dance was canceled and the comfort offered by our hugs and brushing the tears away. The dust reminds us of our partner saying how much they love us and the dust also reminds us of our saying goodbye to loves ones through a cell phone or laptop screen as we gently brushed away our anger and loss.
The dust reminds us that we are still moving, still striving, still crying, still laughing, still grieving and still being. Yes, I must sweep up this dust; it is allergy season! But I know the dust will return. We will return again to a life free from a pandemic. We will return to a world that is new because we have discovered that dust looks the same, feels the same, blows the same and is relentless! So I’m hearing someone say, “we were created from dust and to dust we will return.” Okay, but don’t get too caught up on that please!!! Just appreciate that when the sun shines on your dust, it sparkles and rises up in the air, dancing before you, letting you know that life still happens, because of you!
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.