Monday, November 14, 2016

Tag! We're It!

This weekend we got tagged--I guess that's kind of a trendy way to say that our property was vandalized.  It was just chalk and it was extremely insignificant compared to the millions of examples of hateful vandalism around the country, but it happened all the same.  We washed the hateful words off of the driveway, but in a new way you can still see them--the driveway is much cleaner where the words were and as a result, they are still readable.  I feel like that, personally, right now.  The words are gone, but there is an emotional trace where they were that is nearly as evident as the words themselves were. . . .  

Why were we targeted?  I don't know and I'm not going to speculate.  We all know what assuming does and I'm not going to be a part of finger pointing.  But, we were tagged and it stirred up many feelings inside of me and inside of my children.  We realize first hand how much hate is in this world.

I didn't post about the incident on social media, but Andy did.  The reactions to his post have humbled me, have made me feel safe, have overwhelmed me with love, have alienated me, have made me feel abandoned and have made me feel just about everything in between.  Thankfully, 90% of the responses have made me feel loved.  I want to write about some of the reactions and how they  made me feel.

Like I said, I didn't post, so I wasn't expecting to hear anything from anyone.  But around ten on Saturday morning, my phone started alerting me and I was shocked to see the love and support pouring out for our family via my text messages.  So many people reached out to ask if I was okay, to ask if my family was okay and to truly empathize with the pain they understood I could possibly be feeling.

The internet say:

Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another.  

I love that definition.  My friends didn't know how I was feeling because I hadn't reached out, but they choose empathy for me and for my family with the understanding that there was a good chance I could be scared or hurt or any number of things.  They stepped out of their lives for a moment and tried to see the world through the lens I was now seeing it through.  I was touched.

I didn't know how they knew about the tagging, so I hopped on Facebook and saw what my husband had posted.  Then I scrolled down to see the hundreds of comments he received and I was humbled (mostly).  The group of people reaching out to our family and loving us was so eclectic.  They were from all over the world, from many different backgrounds and races and religions.  For the most part, all of the comments came from a place of empathy--they put themselves in our shoes and reached out with true care.  I felt known.  I felt safe.  I felt loved.

Over the weekend there have been several comments that have been painful--these were the comments that came with no empathy at all.  These were the comments that were flippant and "logical" and lacked empathy:  "seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the heart of another."  Comments dismissing the incident as just chalk or just silly teenagers or just the five percent. . . comments that didn't come close to caring about how we may be feeling after being the target of hate.  With this flippancy, I felt abandoned.

On Sunday morning, I woke up really wrestling with the tagging.  I was snuggling with Gabby, thinking about my responsibility as a mother raising a colorful family in this America.  It was confusing and overwhelming.  I just held Gabby, thanking God for her while being burdened by the responsibility I have to care well for her and for my other four children.  I got up (reluctantly) to go to church and I was burdened. 

In our church, after the sermon, we have a time for prayer requests.  A lady got up and asked the entire church to show their support and love for a family by standing--literally--in unity (I had no idea where this was going at the time)--she then started to talk about our family and about what had happened . . . .  the entire church stood up and looked at my family with love and silent support.  That was true community.  It was true empathy.  I was humbled.  I was honored.  I was overwhelmed and the tears streamed from my eyes.  Tears of so many emotions that I didn't even realize I was having until my church stood around my family in loving support--loving support regardless of the extent of the vandalism, loving support regardless of who did it or why they did it, loving support because for a moment they put themselves in our shoes and cared deeply for all of the feelings we must have been (or could have been) feeling as a result of being targeted. 

So, even though I felt abandoned and uncared for by some of the people who I should have felt the most safe with because they chose not to put themselves in our shoes and they chose to be flippant (or silent), this weekend I was loved by strangers, acquaintances, liberals, Muslims, non-Christians, other marginalized people, dear friend and by my church where we are still the "new kids."  So many unexpected people were the arms of Christ hugging my neck this weekend and I am so thankful for those people who reached out to me and to my family out of true empathy and love.

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