This week has got me thinking.
In between the onslaught of deadlines I found time to help out with the Latinx Heritage Club’s Cesar Chavez week. Granted, it was part of my job, so I didn’t really have a choice. He was the Latino MLK Jr, basically. I don’t really know the details. And that bothers me.
On Tuesday there was a showing of the film “McFarland USA”. I was in charge of buying food. How many pizzas should I get? Eight will be fine, they said. Eight pizzas will feed about thirty people. We had lots of leftovers.
The movie was the best I had seen in a long time, a moving portrayal of how different and how much harder others’ lives are than mine. And how in the face of their long workdays, and invisibility to society, these peoples’ hearts shone with a humility I haven’t seen lately, least of all in myself. I found myself wishing that all my friends could have come too.
On Thursday there was a Spoken Word gathering around the topic of social justice. I was glad to find the room was packed. There was anger, there was honesty, there was vulnerability, and there was beauty. I snapped along with the audience when a man asked how we can look the other way when the oppressed are begging for eye contact. I sat in heavy silence when a woman asked the Lord’s forgiveness for being okay with not loving her neighbor. I was stumped too, because her neighbor was a man that yelled at her father to go back to Mexico at the grocery store.
The other day I read the powerful words of someone I respect, who wrote simply “I am tired.” She was tired of feeling invisible. Feeling like the antagonist for using her voice, her presence, her very being, to shake people awake to a reality they would rather not acknowledge.
After this week, I am tired too.
I’m tired of people I care about carrying hidden heavy hearts. Seeing them hurt hurts me. I’m tired of careless dinner discussion that reeks of privilege and lack of empathy. I’m tired of this bubble that feels increasingly surreal and cruel to those outside its walls. And I’m tired of my own ignorance, too.
I’m encouraged by the people brave enough to speak out, to wrestle with God and society, their neighbor and themselves. Their words have powers of healing and validation and conviction.
I’m grateful that there is a community of people on my campus who care about these issues. They are some of the best people I have ever met, and they teach me everyday how to live more fully into my supposed strength of “empathy”.
I’m discouraged by the fact that these multicultural events by and large reach the same audiences again and again. I don’t want to and cannot categorize or stereotype these people in any way, but there are recurring characteristics I have noticed about the people that frequent these events. Preaching to the choir would be an irreverent analogy, but it’s a similar idea. We market events to reach people that would not normally think of attending these non-mainstream events, because we know there are those people who do.
And I wish everyone could have been at these humble, student run events, because we have much to learn from each other.
This week has challenged me.
These big ticket topics like social justice or racial reconciliation, socioeconomics or even just how to love, they should not be hushed. But it’s scary how easy it is to do just that.
You could argue that my university is a bubble. Maybe it is. But when you graduate, how will your life be different? I would consider my hometown neighborhood a bubble. The problem isn’t the bubble, but your agreement to live in it. The excuse of “the bubble” is omnipresent. You can create for yourself a bubble wherever you go, or you can not. You can live in a bubble, outside a bubble, or you can pop a bubble. But it’s up to you.
For me, bubble-less living means remembering that face value is hardly of any value when it comes to knowing somebody. It means reading up on what’s happening in Aleppo, and asking people questions that are deeper than surface level. It means being grateful for my 8 am class and early wakeup call, because it could be a 4:30 am wakeup call to pick fruit all day with no degree in sight. It means the hard work of stripping away assumptions and preconceptions. The harder still work of not turning away when it’s so much easier to, of speaking up for an unpopular, taboo, or contentious belief. It means a whole lot of intentional reaching out and reaching up.
But if I am going to claim to be striving to love God and others, this work is so necessary.