A Letter to My Sons// How to See

Sweet boys,

I've been in a writing funk lately. The combination of no school/different routine/traveling has me tired and my thoughts all jumbled in a way that they just can't seem to spill out onto paper (or screen). 

But today, today I couldn't NOT write. My thoughts were clear and they were strong and I wanted to get this out before they were clouded with the day to day. So one of you is having quiet time in his room, and the other is watching a kids' version of Star Wars, and I'm sitting here, confused, angry and wanting to weep for the brokenness of this world.

You don't know of this brokenness. Not yet. You have no idea about people being treated differently because of the color of their skin, or their cultural background or their beliefs. You don't see those things...in fact, you're almost oblivious to them, and that makes my heart soar. I pray it stays that way; that you always just see a friend. You see, your mommy grew up in a different area of the country than you. One that I miss and I love dearly. There were so many things about rural farm town life that were like a little ideal world, and I hold onto those.

But there were - there are - other parts that aren't so ideal. (This isn't a reflection of my personal family, by the way, just an observation of the culture in general that I was surrounded with)

Like the fact that I honestly couldn't tell you when I first encountered someone who was black, outside of a TV screen. I think Reading Rainbow and Family Matters were the most exposure I had to anyone who was black when I was young. I literally had no concept of black culture, family structure or anything remotely close to reality. Or how the only other ethnicity I do remember encountering (other than mine, of course) was people from Mexico, or as it was often half-whispered in our small towns: 'the Hispanics'. 'The Hispanics' moved in. 'The Hispanics' have a lot of people living in their house. 'That new Hispanic guy seems kind of lazy on the job.' 

What I didn't hear people say was 'Oh, that's our new neighbor, Joe! He moved up here to try and have a quiet life with his family. Their kids are really sweet.' or 'Let's invite the new family over for dinner!' or even 'Maybe a new job in a foreign language is harder than he lets on. I'll go see if we can work together.'

Why?? Why weren't those questions asked, those statements made instead? So many reasons. True ignorance. Passed down stereotypes. Fear of someone different. A false sense of protecting our families. I don't really know all the reasons, but I came away from those experiences knowing that was one thing I didn't want to be part of your mindset. I've had to confront stereotypes and ideas in my head I didn't even know were there, and continue to have to do so when new people and new situations present themselves. It's hard and it's ugly and it's uncomfortable. But that doesn't give me license to avoid it.

I wanted different for you. For you to not see different skin color as strange or a different culture as scary, but as something to be celebrated, to learn from, to embrace! I pray this is something you are learning, and will continue to learn, throughout your life.

But how do we address these injustices, these horrific acts? Whether I want you to or not, you will be confronted with these things one day, and I want you to know what to do. Except I don't even know what to do. 

This is what I do know: 

  • We are called to be "quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger" (James 1:19). Seek to listen first - truly listen - and you just might learn something.
  • Jesus didn't call us to brandish our weapons, decry our 'rights' being violated, or to shout from the rooftops about violations of the Constitution. What He did call us to do was this:

"Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all." (Romans 12:15-18)

So as I sit here today, and break up squabble after squabble, teaching and training in these exhausting little years, I've realized something. When you are selfish with your things and don't share with/push/hit/yell at your brother, we talk about putting others first. About deferring to your brother even if yes, that IS your toy. About choosing to love your brother even if he's being unkind to you or you don't understand what he wants/needs from you.

Maybe it's not so hard after all. I can't change the whole nation's mindset, but with a lot of prayer and a lot of grace, maybe we can raise young men who will help change more minds, who will lead with quiet confidence, who will know that strength is found in humility.

So, my dear boys, I leave you with this, one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis. There are many things I want to impart to you, but if I have to pick what is the most important, this is near the very top of that list: 

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendors."

I love you,