It’s been a year
Hardly seems like it’s been that long since we moved but, this week we’ve been in Chicago exactly 1 year. What a year. So many changes. So many challenges. So many things that are revving our engines. At a time in America when handwringing is normal, ours are too busy to participate.
Thank you Jesus!
Our entire holiday season was dotted with new family, ones we couldn’t imagine before living here. People living far from their families, others lacking family. American experiences so vastly different from ours or our natural children’s. All of us united by a foundational belief,
Kingdom Living = Family Membership
In October we were invited to attend something called Poets in Autumn. It’s a Christian, spoken word, poetry troop that tours the country in predominately African American churches. The invite came from a couple we serve with through our church’s Advance ministry. Thinking that our ministry was planning to do a similar type of event this spring we reasoned it would be good to attend this to “see how it’s done”.
Prior to the event we had dinner with this couple along with the Entourage…Mama, Grandma and girlfriends. Though dinners were served individually, pseudo family style was the norm.
“Mama, could I have one of your poppers?”
“Miss Cinda, can I have one of your fries?”
“Keisha, do you want a nacho?” (names have been changed to protect my memory)
I sat next to Mama, visiting from St. Louis MO. She’s been a tech in the psychiatric ward of a hospital for over 20 years. I was impressed. When I commented, “I bet you’ve seen a lot of life”, she nodded her head firmly enough to make those poppers go down smooth. Her daughter is a testimony to the loving and powerful intervention of God. I could tell she was proud of her. Her degree from university, her ambition to go to Med School, her marriage to a strong, educated, faithful and loving man. I couldn’t begin to put myself in her life shoes.
At one point table conversation drifted to the new Mad Max movie. Grandma asked “Is that the one where Harrison Ford played the original guy?” to which we all said yes and she said, “The same one who was in that Star Wars movie?” and I popped out with “Yes, Grandma – THAT Harrison Ford…mmhmm…” We eyed each other across the table, eyes wide open, brows raised, nodding. A good looking actor unites any generation.
After dinner it was a hop to Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and the church where the event was held. While waiting in line to enter I talked with Grandma. She regaled me with tales of growing up in her native Chicago, Englewood IL neighborhood. She was visiting from out of town where she’s working in a call center, she’s all of 6 yrs older than me. She told of being a Rangerette as a young girl and how she had 200 sisters in her group. As I listened my mind ran through the various “groups” I knew from childhood, Girl Scouts, Brownies, Missionettes…I couldn’t figure out what a Rangerette was until she mentioned the gang names that bracketed her street.
She spoke of losing her daughter to a brain tumor and raising her grandsons. Her brother being shot. Her various rehab stints. I sensed parental pride for her grandson, rightly so! A science degree from University of Miami, a turn in the National Guard, well paying job, property owner, grad school, studying for the LSAT, faithful and loving husband to a wife who embraces her as family. Again, God’s loving intervention.
Can I just say? African American Christians can dress! Hair wraps, braids, eye wear, jewelry (men & women) hats, the accessories had this former retailer drooling.
Once we were seated in church and the program began I was caught up in the performances. There is a cadence to African American speech that took me a few minutes to adjust to, after I connected it was exciting, hilarious and moving. At one point while laughing along with the audience, I noticed people in the row ahead looking over their shoulders at us. It didn’t occur to me until we left the building that it might be because of our skin color. I’m sure that says something more about me than it does them. Something, maybe, with “privilege” in the sentence…
Next morning at church we caught up with the kids and mama. Mama wouldn’t leave till we hugged, I told her next time she was in town we’d do lunch–2nd hug. All of them asked how we liked the evening and we readily told them we loved it and thanked them for taking us. Bruce told our host that he was immensely touched they invited us, offering to reimburse him for the tickets but he wouldn’t accept. He told Bruce that while waiting in line the previous evening, one of his friends asked him, “Are they going to be okay here?” to which he replied,
“Why not? They’re family”
We celebrated Christmas Day with he and his wife, along with another of our other new daughters and our own natural daughter and son in law. Food, presents and a game of Balderdash, until someone was losing…
I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. I will never know what it’s like to grow up in Black America, that is fact. I find, I’ve no desire to view it from the sidelines either. Holding on to my own interpretation of the American Black experience, comforted by my separateness. Opinions are fine and good, until faced with real lives. God lovingly brought people into our lives decades ago to open our eyes to the racism that still lives in our country. And while it’s not right, or even new, it’s also fact.
As much as the world cries out for solutions and justice their answers are limited and often flawed. I can only hope and pray that by being available, free with my love, encouragement, listening ear and a humility that says “I don’t know it all”, progress can be made.
And if it can’t happen in church…of all places?!
The thought of heaven pops up at times like this. Worshippers of a King who laid down his life for EVERY nation, color, language, experience, economic and social status. Hands lifted, voices raised, the majesty of God on display as we bow to our knees and call him,