And yet and still

Dear President Trump,

The title of the Easter sermon this morning was “In Praise of What Isn’t.” Our pastor’s theme was how crucial it is that we not get stuck on what is and lose sight of what can be. She wasn’t saying that we should ignore what is or pretend that the bad things that are happening aren’t going on or aren’t as bad as they are. Rather, she was saying that we’re in danger of giving up and losing out on possibility if we buy into the crushing myth that things can’t and won’t ever change, if we shut down and close ourselves off from stepping up to change the world. It was most definitely an Easter, resurrection message.

During the offering we sang “I’ve got a feeling (everything is gonna be alright),” an African American traditional. It’s a call and response that runs through a bunch of verses telling us that the speaker’s mother, Jesus, the Spirit, etc. all know that things re going to turn out ok. Singing it today, helping to lead the response parts with the choir, I got caught up in it and could almost believe it’s true. I was aware, though, of holding back in a self-protective, “I don’t want to be duped or look naive,” way that was jostling for ascendency with a cynical “I don’t think so” refrain.

At one point, for about 10 seconds, during the song when everyone was on their feet singing, I flashed on an image of the torn up pews in one of the Sri Lankan churches that was bombed this morning and involuntarily scanned the back of the sanctuary for a gunman. No one the least bit threatening was back there, but I don’t fault myself for the worry and the thought. I also don’t fault those who can’t bring themselves to sing this song, who feel their best bet for survival is to never let up, to never take their eyes off the threats they face or feel certain are coming.

Threats to our individual and collective well-being abound; forces outside us put us through changes we don’t want to experience with daunting regularity. And yet and still. I’m not down with the literal resurrection Easter message, but how we carry ourselves in the face of threats, losses, set-backs, betrayals, frustrations, and the like is what it’s about. Do we let the shit take us out, sideline us? Or do we look for models to emulate who are kind and forthright even though they and we may have little sense that any of it makes a perceptible difference except insofar as we know we aren’t (intentionally) making things worse, and maybe, just maybe might be making things the tiniest bit better for someone, if only ourselves?

May we navigate safely through our individual and collective tough times.
May we be happy to be kind to ourselves and to one another.
May we remember that perseverance is a vital form of strength.
May we stay fast on the side of peace.

Tracy Simpson

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