May we be people of PEACE
With voices of HOPE
Doing the hard work of LOVE
We speak this blessing over ourselves and each other at the end of each What LIES Between Us session. I am honored to be one of the teachers, more like a guide ushering beautiful souls through the pain of our past and providing context for our present. We meet weekly to uncover hidden, ugly truths and discover the path of our nation’s racial divides so that we can start the journey toward healing. This benediction is a profession of who we are, who we hope to be, and an acknowledgement that living with this intention is active and challenging.
As learners often find themselves simultaneously overwhelmed and empowered by broader perspectives, ending the sessions with such a profession breathes inspiration, encouraging everyone to remain situated in hope and positioned to practice change.
As awareness expands, learners will ask me, “Knowing all this stuff, how are you able to teach this without crying, without breaking down? How are you able to remain compassionate and hopeful?”
With limited time, I quickly sum up my own growth and change and what I have witnessed in others. Compassion and hope are not a show of my professionalism but cultivated fruit bearing a sweet fragrance. They are the way to create a safe space for what may feel like a dangerous conversation.
But lately, I have also been bearing the fruit of fear. Recently, I caught myself judging “those people” — you know, “those people” who deem some lives more valuable than others, who debate over who rightly bears God’s image and who does not, who “love fear and fear love.” In their presence, I held my breath, put up walls, and expected the worst. When I felt myself exhale with relief and heard my thoughts — those people are not what I expected; they were actually pretty pleasant — I realized that fear had subtly sprouted its nasty roots. I was the one being driven by fear — the painful irony!
But when did this happen? How did this happen? “Walling off” people is not what I do! I know better! I do better.
I panicked, but then our benediction echoed in my heart: Doing the hard work of LOVE. The echo was like waves crashing through my body overwhelming me with revelation. Fear is fearless. Fear is toxic. Fear is relentless. Fear doesn’t care about all the work I have done or that I am a guide. I had been eclipsed by fear’s dark shadows.
In the overcast of a fear-driven climate and without noticing, I had effortlessly slipped into a valley of fear. But it was there in the depths that I found empathy and compassion for the fearful — “those people” that I had resented. I was one of them. I had been asking, “How can people be so easily fooled and manipulated by fear? Don’t they recognize the grip of fear?” Now, I understood. I thought I was exempt, but I am not.
Fear is easy; love is hard.
Fear blinds; love liberates.
Fear shuts me down; love allows me to show up.
Fear pulls me back; love propels me forward.
Fear says run away from them; love says run toward them.
Fear stifles growth; love starts new friendships.
Fear wounds; love heals.
Doing the hard work of love demands more of me — to be more brave and more relentless than fear. It goes beyond me working to contribute more than what fear can diminish. It means monitoring my movement — Am I shutting down, pulling back, running away? — and breaking through the hardened ground of my heart to dig wells in search of compassion. The hard work of love asks me to dress my wounds and hurts because there will always be wounds and hurts and that if I gaze too long at fear’s captives, I will become a prisoner as well. But Love asks me to keep going and become a person of peace and a voice of hope.