“We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics…they will only grow louder and more dissonant ……….. We’ve been asked to pause for a reality check. We’ve been warned against offering the people of this nation false hope.
But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.”
– Barack Obama 2008
My mom and I held back tears as we listened to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech this week. My mother is 77. White, European decent, raised Roman Catholic. My father was white, European decent, raised Anglican. Unlike so many of their generation, for all their other faults, they detested racism.
My mother, through her own Roman Catholic upbringing in Northern Ontario, was told she was not to associate with “those” people. Blacks? Indians? No…………. Protestants. She distinctly remembers being told told not to play with “those” children. Even as a child, she found she questioned and disagreed with why people had to have labels that caused separation. My father was raised in rural Manitoba to an English child immigrant and his Scottish war bride. His neighbours were new Eastern European immigrants to Canada- referred to by most in the area by derogatory terms like “hunkies”, “pollacks” and “bohunks“. My Grandfather would lash out at his children if he heard those terms and would remind them that they were their neighbours and friends, and such slurs would not be tolerated. It didn’t surprise me many years later to learn that my Grandfather’s good friend in WWI was a black man from the British West Indies. My dad took his father’s teachings to heart and I never heard a racial slur ever come out of his mouth. My mother and father’s marriage was never condoned by my mother’s parents because my father was judged by his creed not his character. Such was the household I was raised in.
My mom used to tell me to look at the person- not their colour. She told me that it doesn’t matter what religion you are as long as you are a good person- and that being religious didn’t necessarily make you a good person. I think I know when someone is good- you can see it in their eyes- there is a light there that is beyond adequate description.
What do you see when you look at a person? Do you see the colour of their skin, the make of their clothes, their sexual orientation, or do you see the light that shines in their eyes? We all have a light- for some it shines more brightly than others. Those with hope- their light shines so luminous that we actually say “you can see the hope in their eyes”.
Have you ever seen someone with no hope? Their light is so dim- almost on the point of extinguishing. The light that shines in our eyes is a reflection of a greater light that shines in all of us- it is the light of knowing that we are all connected. When we are alone it is hard to have hope- we cannot see the light that shines within ourselves. We feel alone even when we are not- when people have separated us by race, colour, sex and creed; when others have pushed us to the point where we no longer feel we are connected.
Can you look at someone with little hope and see the light in them? Can you make yourself a mirror to that person so they can once again see their light? Can you see what connects you rather than what separates you?
I am not an American, but what has happened this week is a raising of the consciousness of not just one nation. One by one, people have joined in community to seek what connects them and to create a larger and larger mirror for all those, that are still feeling disenfranchised and alone, to see the light within them.
This light is Grace, this light connects all of us, and this light shines independant of circumstance- it is truth and goodness beyond the material world. Just like hope.