We’ve all seen this meme. It basically is the motto of 2020 for many of us slogging our way through it. That’s where I find myself this year. The world is on fire, and I feel like that meme drinking tea with the caption, this is fine. But who am I trying to convince? Myself? My family? Everything is decidedly not fine, yet somehow we’re all supposed to live our lives as if it is?
What’s happening?? As Randall from This is Us would say…. Speaking of Randall, he had the quote of the year when he said, “I’m exhausted. And all I want to do now is go home and be with my wife and my girls.” I felt that Randall! We’re both done pretending that things are fine when they’re clearly not. Yesterday on a call, I literally said, I hate everything about everything right now. It was a rare moment of transparency in the midst of a tough day. But it was where I was in that moment and it felt good to get it off my chest. Turns out I wasn’t the only one.
For those of us who have been on a journey of reflection that this year has prompted, it has been both exhausting and exhilarating. Growth rarely is easy. I’ve been reading a lot lately, and one of the books I’ve picked back up is Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me. As Ta-Nehisi Coates writes to his son, you are called to struggle, not because it assures you victory, but because it assures you an honorable and sane life. I’ve been coming to terms this year with just how much we collectively as a people have to suffer with. And for those of us who dare to see the world not as it should be, but as it is, we’re confronted with the stark reality of our times. Coates suggests, to acknowledge these horrors means turning away from the brightly rendered version of your country as it has always declared itself and turning towards something murkier and unknown. It is still too difficult for most Americans to do this. But this is your work. It must be, if only to preserve the sanctity of your mind.
I’ve tried to bring my daughters along on this journey with me, because like Coates I feel a responsibility to ensure they have the tools they need to make sense of the world they live in. Make no mistake about it, as a parent I have an agenda (In fact, I have several, what parent doesn’t?). One of them is to ensure my girls are critical consumers of their own history and our present day culture. It began with reading the book The Watsons go to Birmingham after George Floyd, a great read for elementary age kids introducing them to the Civil Rights movement through the eyes of a black family living in the 60s. It’s continued with our new book, A Good Kind of Trouble, told through the lens of a black girl in middle school confronting present day racism and grappling with what it means to be a young activist. I love our conversations each night about the content we’re reading because I get to see them connecting the dots and most importantly, I get to be a part of this critical consciousness development.
It’s a lot at times I admit. We’ve made intentional choices to live in a community that embraces them, surrounded by people who look like them, steeped in a faith tradition and culture that uplifts them, sometimes it’s jarring for them to learn that the rest of the world doesn’t operate like what they experience in their bubble. But I know the stakes are higher for them, and so they can’t afford to not know the difference. What they do with that knowledge, well, my hope is that they develop the tools in time to make their peace with the world. Who knows, perhaps one day they might not have to even pretend anymore that things are fine when they clearly aren’t.