Last night I was one of many community members in rural Oregon, who filled our humble City Hall with love. We left the warm comfort of our homes, skipped our children’s bedtime routines, or brought our children with us, to tell our City Council why welcoming and inclusive immigrant policy is undeniably important for our community’s vibrancy.
I took tea. It’s a routine. I held a warm mug for 10 years, while I listened to others for a living. It’s grounding and it’s comforting.
When you’re supporting a movement, and asking officials for a commitment, and maybe even some change, it’s important to go in strong, but it’s equally important to go in receiving. No matter what, we must listen and now more than ever. In all encounters, no matter how certain I am, I’ve been asking myself, “What can I learn here?” Sometimes I have to dig deep.
The tea I drink, almost obsessively, is a Yogi tea (how quaint for a yogi); Sweet Tangerine Positive Energy (how quaint for a change agent). The tags bear words that are sometimes sweet, and sometimes mundane. Last night, as I prepared to support rural America to mean what it says about itself, with all its grit and love thy neighbor talk, my tea tags read, “This life is a gift,” and “May this day be the day to lead us to peace, to happiness and to joy.”
I smiled, and I felt a little calmer. Our portion of the meeting was beautiful to witness, and I’m so happy I attended. In our time of political divide, and the fear of consternation from an impulsive, unpredictable President, it is scary for municipalities to stand up. So no, the beauty of citizen testimony isn’t enough. The hard work is now in the hands of our Councilors, and they will be researching how embracing immigrants vocally, and publicly, and without hesitation could impact our small city.
I know they will make the best decision, and I know this work is far from over. Proclamations and resolutions don’t stop racism, nationalism, or white supremacy, so there will be no more looking away from them. There can be no more accepting of false comfort, from the shiny veneer of small town America that tells us, It’s good here, why do we need to talk about race?
This work can make you sour, and it is sad and angering to watch people have no choice but to accept racism. Listening to the stories of people experiencing discrimination is painful. They have to eat it, every day, shrugging it off again and again, until they can’t any more. It’s making our communities sick, in an insidious, festering way. Beneath that shiny veneer, you don’t have to go very far to find the pain, anger, and shame.
When you tell me we don’t have a problem here, in the United States of America, I assume you’ve not spoken to anyone who’s having the problems. And then I want to hug you–because it’s a level of bad that’s happening right beneath your nose, and wow, it hurts to delve into it–but we all need to be delving in right now.
We need to punch through the veneer. Each person who continues to skate on it, smiling in the bright light of day and enjoying the gentle breeze, is responsible for the suffering of those beneath it, who are trapped in our worst behaviors.
So yes, May this day be the day to lead us to peace, to happiness and to joy.
Yes, this life is a gift.
And yes, this work is hard, but it’s also so sweet.