Some ten years ago I attended the first of many United Way events at the home of a prominent local leader. I quickly learned that, as a United Way staff leader, to fully serve the mission one must pour their entire self out attempting to meet the often varied needs of our diverse stakeholder groups.
Once dinner began, I discretely exited, listening intently to the conversation from the hallway. A while later, my boss, a white man, came out questioning why I was not joining the group. I fumbled for my words. At the time, I didn’t have the courage to tell him that I felt unworthy to be in the room.
I didn’t feel unworthy to be in the room because I was one of two persons of color in attendance. I didn’t feel unworthy to be in the room because I was a United Way staffer or one of the youngest. I felt unworthy because I grew up differently than everyone in the room, and it takes time to believe that God can work even through the least of these. It was then, and throughout our time working together, that my boss reminded me that I was made in God’s image – Imago Dei – and that we all put our pants on the same way, rich or poor, black or white.
This past week was another one of those emotional rollercoasters that’s becoming all too familiar. I couldn’t hold back the tears hearing about the events in Charlottesville, unsettled by the fact that some believe and feel emboldened to communicate that my life lacks worth because of the way I look. The images and hateful speech conjured lots of pain for many. I see the growing racial divide in our country and region eroding the ability of people to be their better selves.
There is no place for racism, bigotry and prejudice of any form. We must challenge ourselves to be in relationship with and care about others, and to commit to the difficult path of racial reconciliation that will only take place when we are honest with the current condition of our hearts. We are all worthy. And we must all speak up.