Whet Your Appetite

In the wake of the latest rounds of senseless violence and hatred in El Paso and Dayton, there is a plethora of phrases that weave through the headlines and the debates and the conversations. Some of them have become “stock” phrases, tragically emptied of real impact through hauntingly frequent repetition; others are pregnant with the potential for actual change. “Thoughts and prayers.” “How long?” “Nine dead.” “Twenty-two dead.” “Remembering the victims.” “Background checks.” “Assault-style weapons.” “Warning signs.” “Courageous first responders.” “Dayton Strong.” “Act now!” “Do something!”

However, there is one ignoble phrase that surfaced after Dayton that made me so angry I’ve had to take considerable time to mull it over before writing or speaking about it. Our president’s bravado over potential action to bring some longed-for common sense to gun laws in the United States was revealed as mere smoke and mirrors when he built this fence of expediency around it: “We can’t do X, Y, or Z because there’s no political appetite for it.” That phrase, “political appetite,” sounded through his speeches in the following days like the wrong-answer buzzer on a game show. But as appalling as it is to hear so baldly spoken by our “commander in chief” in response to the crisis in our country, the sad reality is that “political appetite” is the driving force behind the collective inaction at all levels of government.

Word Art 7

After the first wave of furious indignation passed, I realized once again that it is up to us, as citizens, to hold leaders accountable. We, the people, must speak plainly, with voice and vote and dollars, to let them know that this is not about political appetite. The groundswell of support for common-sense gun laws is fueled by a voracious appetite for justice, for safety, for well-being, for life. This is an appetite that crosses partisan lines. We, the people, are tired of the inaction, tired of that sinking feeling when yet another headline breaks. We, the people, are sick unto death—literally—of the fear that grips our gatherings and our life together. (I wept last week as our local county fair began, when I realized that my first and most urgent thought about the week-long event was, “Dear God, please don’t let anyone start shooting.”) Wherever we live in this great country, we, the people, must not sink into passive discontent; we, the people, must make the calls and write the letters and stand in the rallies and visit the statehouses—over and over again, until we have the attention of those who have been elected to represent us. Know the names and phone numbers of your elected officials. When they stand courageously for justice, safety, well-being, and life—celebrate and thank them. When they cravenly cower before the god of “political appetite”—let them know that your appetite for justice, safety, well-being, and life will speak find its voice at the polls.

Here are some websites that can help you find concrete, practical ways to communicate with your elected officials and to be alert and aware about the bills that are being promoted at both state and federal levels:

  • 5calls.org–Enter your zip code to find the phone numbers and addresses of your Congressional representatives and Senators at both state and local level, a list of various issues that are front and center, and suggestions on how to address those issues in your call. (For my conservative friends, you won’t agree with many of the positions on this website, but it is still an invaluable resource for getting those calls made regularly and efficiently. Let’s not allow partisan divides on other issues to keep us from a united American voice on this urgent matter.)
  • Moms Demand Action (https://momsdemandaction.org)–agrassroots organization working at local, state, and federal levels.
  • For a Gallup poll on Americans’ positions on common sense reform to gun laws and gun safety: https://news.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx

Of Mosaics and Reality Checks

Rachel Coleman

Full disclosure: This post begins in a fit of pique, a real lower-lip-jutting pout. Not quite two months into life in a new place, the getting-to-know-you questions continue to be front and center, and I’m realizing how deep the cringe-factor is every time I hear, “And what do you do?” Every single time, that question unsettles my uneasy peace with the jumble of moving parts that make up my professional life—missionary, adjunct professor, trainer, course writer, preacher and teacher. In the wake of yet another cycle of high expectations followed by dashed hopes around a potential full-time teaching position, I am coming to grips with the fact that being spread across a variety of part-time roles with multiple organizations is no longer a “temporary” state but is most likely now the permanent shape of my vocational life. Thus, the pout.

pout

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit will not tolerate pouting as an appropriate posture for followers of Jesus. (Lamenting is one thing, wallowing is another!) As I walked this morning, prayer-pouting about the “fractured” pieces of my professional life and prayer-whining for a more integrated way to live out my vocation, the Spirit gently suggested a new way of viewing those pieces. The image that came to mind was a mosaic—a multitude of tiny pieces of glass or stone, fitted together to form something of brilliant beauty. Not a second-best or a settled-for thing, but an intentional work of art. H’mmm. With that image in mind, it was time for some reality checks.

mosaic

Reality check #1: No woman anywhere ever has all the pieces of her life in a single basket, no matter her title or the letters after her name. All women wear multiple hats and juggle multiple roles, many of them doing it as valiant single moms battling daily against forces that threaten the well-being of their families.

Reality check #2: I like all the pieces of my vocational life! Crafting a course or writing a lecture, engaging in spirited discussions of Scripture, connecting Latin American seminary leaders with each other, translating and writing discipleship materials, making videos to put a “face” on my teaching for online students, preparing sermons, coaching and mentoring kingdom leaders in places near and far—these are the things that fill my week, and I enjoy every single one of them.

Reality check #3: All the part-time, online teaching pieces give me the freedom to keep doing the missionary pieces. Thanks to a wonderful team of financial and prayer partners plus the flexibility of a teaching mode that can go with me to any geographical location that has WiFi, I am free to teach, train, and coach in Spain and Latin America.

Rachel, Mexico teaching

So, no more pouting! No more whining! Full-on perseverance and gratitude will keep perspectives in line. As I heard Henry Winkler say recently, “I live by two words, tenacity and gratitude. Tenacity gets me where I need to go, and gratitude keeps me from getting angry along the way.” I still don’t have a good answer to the “what do you do” question, but gratitude for all the moving parts is a great place from which to attempt a response.

Orange is the New Shade of Faith

Rachel Coleman

The Rev and I have never been home owners. Throughout our 35-year marriage, we’ve either been students, missionaries, or in parish ministry. That has meant making our home in a series of rental properties, mission-owned apartments, or parsonages (that’s Methodist-speak for vicarage, manse, rectory—whatever word your tradition uses for a pastor’s home owned by the church). The variety of physical spaces has been broad—everything from a drafty mobile home in Kentucky, to an awkwardly-designed old farm house in the middle of an Indiana cornfield, to a pool-included, tile-floored villa in a major South American city, to a 115-year-old architectural gem in the urban core of an Ohio city. All told, more than a dozen different living spaces, across three U.S. states and two Latin American countries. That variety represents the incredible privilege of doing life and ministry with a richly diverse cast of friends, colleagues, and ministry partners. But it also represents a cumulative set of hellos and goodbyes, of gains and losses, that is the bittersweet reality of life in cross-cultural and itinerant ministry.

About a year and a half ago, it became clear to me that yet another move was coming our way. Total honesty here: I wasn’t sure I still had the physical, emotional, or spiritual stamina to manage this again; the cumulative effects of 35 years of itinerancy had resulted in the “bittersweet scale” tilting precariously away from sweetness. What was once easy to embrace as adventure now looked mostly like ordeal and loss. The Lord and I had some long conversations about this (with a lot of whining on my end of the dialogue). A lot of those talks happened on my walks through the neighborhood, as I prayed over and over, “Lord, prepare a place for us and prepare us for that place.” I began to look at houses as I walked (our neighborhood had a delightfully heterogeneous mix of architectural styles) and to wonder what the next installment of Casa Coleman would be like.

Door, El Escorial

I’ve always been fascinated with interesting doors, stopping in my travels to snap photos of porticos, gates, and puertas that catch my eye. On my daily walks, I began to notice painted doors—turquoise, red, yellow, blue. Curiosity welled up—what had prompted each home owner to choose that particular color? “What color would I want on my next front door?” After a few weeks of mulling over that question, I settled on imagining an entrance painted a warm, tangerine shade of orange, a bright, welcoming, happy color. As soon as I vocalized that, it was startling to hear the Spirit instruct, “Buy the paint!” “Um, Lord, you do realize that I don’t have a door to put it on, right? You do remember that we’re Methodists, right? Things like changing the color of a parsonage door have been known to stir up church strife!” No matter—the imperative was soft but persistent. To Randy’s eternal credit, when I relayed this to him, he only raised a slightly incredulous eyebrow and took me paint shopping, as an act of faith.

That gallon of paint sat in a corner of the basement stairwell for over a year. Every time I saw the happy stripe of tangerine on the top of that can, it was a whisper of hope, that God was indeed answering the prayer: “Prepare a place for us and prepare us for a place.” Now, thanks to a very gracious and warmly welcoming congregation, the latest iteration of Casa Coleman sports not one but two lovely orange doors. The color has provided openings for conversation with church members and neighbors alike, and, in one of those happy serendipities, orange is also the team color of the high school that sits literally in our backyard. (The Spirit smiles, I just know it!) Every time I walk home or pull into the driveway, those doors greet me with reminders of God’s faithfulness and invite me to a life of grateful obedience in this place.

Coco, R, R in front of parsonage

**If you’ve lived your whole life in one place and within the confines of one culture, I recommend this site as a great resource for understanding what your “mobile” brothers and sisters experience: alifeoverseas.com.

 

Listening across Divides, part 2

Rachel Coleman

**Disclaimer: This is NOT a post about politics, although it is the current political divide in the U.S. that provides the pertinent illustration. This is the second set of musings on the challenges, opportunities, and urgency of learning to “listen across the divide” (whether that separating chasm is political, ideological, theological, or social). Given the nature of the experience that prompted the reflections offered here, you the readers will inevitably discern some of my personal political leanings and most of you will probably make some judgments about that—for some, you’ll find it shocking and respond with disapproval; for others, perhaps you’ll nod or applaud. It was the experience of a similar judgment-making reaction on my own part that catapulted me into deeper reflection on what it means to listen—responsibly and well—across the divide.  So, I invite you to suspend judgment (of either kind) and listen in as I ponder the challenges of learning to listen better. Although this is a matter that has been percolating along at the edge of my thoughts for some time now, here is what prompted deeper and more intentional thinking.

Great Divide

 Not long ago, I was listening in the car to the BBC News Hour the day after a particular political figure “launched” his reelection campaign. One segment of the broadcast that day was an interview with two people who had voted reluctantly (their own assessment) for this person in 2016 but who are now firmly committed to his reelection next year. The two respondents were in many ways very different—one was a man, the other a woman; both were obviously well-educated and articulate, but from different generations and vocational backgrounds; each lived in a different region of the U.S. I was curious about the reasoning that led them to a perspective that is incomprehensible to me, so I kept listening. At one point, however, I almost jabbed the “change station” button. Both interviewees reported seeing this political figure as “persecuted by the media,” an oft-heard theme among his supporters. With an eye roll, I made myself keep listening. The man followed up his initial assessment with this double claim (paraphrased): “The media is so unfair to him, twisting everything he says and does” and “no one in the media really listens to us [his supporters] and takes us seriously.” Now the eye roll became a loud snort of disgusted dismissal and the urge to change the station was almost irresistible. But at that moment, as a red light stopped the car’s forward motion, something within my spirit also stopped my progress down that mental path. The question slammed into me forcefully—what was there in my reaction of swift and contemptuous dismissal that could by any stretch of the imagination be considered loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, generous, faithful, gentle or self-controlled? (Galatians 5:22–23) And when did swift and summary dismissal become the appropriate response to the incomprehensible? Shouldn’t the incomprehensible be met rather with a concerted effort to comprehend?

eye roll emoji

So I felt compelled to do some better listening to both pieces of that man’s claim, to hear clearly and to try to understand his perspective, as well as my own reaction to it. First, the whole media persecution thing—that claim still gets an eye roll, for two reasons. On the one hand, if you refuse to be “informed” by the whole cable news machine, with its extremes of sycophantic pandering on one end and determined hostility on the other, there is still plenty of fair and balanced journalism available. On the other hand, there’s enough direct evidence flowing straight from this particular horse’s mouth, that who needs a talking head to analyze it or prescribe a way to think about it? But—and this is a huge element in listening across the divide—if the person I disagree with is indeed ingesting “news” from one of those end-of-the-spectrum sources, then his or her perspective is going to be significantly shaped by that source. And if I am going to listen across our divide—listen for comprehension rather than dismissal—I have to be attentively aware of that perspective-shaping force, with its peculiar set of themes, motifs, and imagery.

It is the second claim made by that interviewee, however, that most poignantly highlights the urgency of a commitment to better listening. He said, “No one in the media listens to us and takes us seriously.” That, I think, is the much more serious reality—operative on both sides of most of our divides—that functions to keep us dismissively suspicious of one another. It is the supercilious and quick refusal to count the other perspective worthy of being heard. The man who uttered those words—like each of us—has a narrative and a worldview through which he interprets that narrative. If I impose my very different narrative and my different worldview on his perspective, it will remain incomprehensible to me, worthy only of a dismissive eye roll or even overt hostility. I may never share his worldview, but if we are to have any kind of fruitful communication, I must do my best to understand it, and that requires a much more intentional kind of listening. It also requires engaging with individuals in one-on-one listening relationships that honor the other person as a unique and valuable human being, rather than a representative of some group or cause or voting block or whatever “other” inhabits the far side of our divide.

Last weekend, with all these musings circling around in my head, I heard a wonderful example of the power of intentionally listening across the divide. Activist Theo E.J. Wilson, himself a victim of police brutality at the age of 22, tells of how his anger and hatred grew proportionately with the list of young black victims. By 2011, he was video blogging almost daily, actively engaged in futile, ugly, and demeaning battles of words with “trolls” from the alt-right. Theo became both weary of the vitriolic hatred and curious about the roots of those responses—what experiences and systems and forces created the fertile seedbed that produced such responses, especially in well-educated young people of his own generation? What could he do to understand the people on the other side of the racial and ideological divide? So Theo did some trolling of his own, creating a white supremacist online persona and diving deeply into the Facebook pages, blogs and v-logs of his alt-right attackers, some of whom he discovered to be “just regular guys”. The unsettling specifics of what Theo learned can be heard in his own words on the TED Radio Hour (“Going Undercover,” May 17, 2019), but here I want to focus on the most surprising outcome of his listening across the divide—compassion. Not sympathy for the choices his attackers made, but compassion for how they got there. “Compassion,” Theo declares, “is my responsibility as a human being.” Compassion—seeing and knowing another human being, recognizing our shared humanity, feeling her wounds in the deepest part of my own soul—is certainly at the heart of what it means to “listen across the divide” for those of us who identify as followers of Jesus, who crossed the greatest of divides to show us the compassionate heart of God.

Theo EJ wilson

The “great divides” of our time are likely to remain broad and deep into the foreseeable future, and comfortable spaces of cocooning homogeneity are likely to be more and more rare. So opportunities for listening across the divide will probably continue to abound. I’m a work in progress here and in some ways a still-reluctant student, but I sense that the urgency for this kind of listening is a gospel urgency.

 

Listening Across the Divides, Part 1

Dr. Rachel Coleman

 **This is part 1 of two in some musings about authentic and effective listening in a historical-cultural moment when true attentiveness is drowned out by shouting, when differences have become insurmountable barriers to hearing rather than invitations to do the hard work of understanding.

Moving from one house to another, whether across town or across the country, is an activity replete with opportunities for head-banging frustration. Right at the top of the list of dreaded move-related chores is account-switching with internet, phone, or TV providers—those never-to-be-recovered chunks of time lost while wading through layer after layer of automated options, listening to annoying robotic voices repeating menu options that don’t reflect your needs, and knowing that when you finally get to a live customer service representative, there still may be language barriers to navigate. Our recent move provided a couple of these phone encounters that aptly illustrate the iconic line from The Princess Bride: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” In other words, communication impasse! Two people speaking the same language, using the same words, but meaning two very different things—a sure equation for lack of understanding and failure to achieve a common goal.

Inconceivable

The first of these encounters was on the front end of our move, when I called the internet provider to set up cancellation of our account. After a particularly annoying journey through the automated maze, at long last I heard the voice of a young woman who was most likely working in India or Pakistan, given her soft, lilting English. Here’s how our conversation went:

ME: “We’re moving, so I’m calling to cancel our internet account.”

AGENT: “So you’re transferring. . .”

ME: (interrupting her) “No, we’re not transferring the account, we’re canceling it because we’re moving.”

AGENT: (after a brief pause) “Right, so you’re transferring. . .”

ME: “No, we are canceling.”

During the much longer pause this time, I began to wonder what was going on here. This nice young woman gave every indication of wanting to be helpful, so why was she being so obstructionist? And then the light bulb went off! What if, in her use of English, “transferring” meant “moving house”? What if our use of the same word for two different things was the obstacle to our ability to accomplish our shared goal? One simple clarification question from me, and we were on our way to a quick resolution of the task at hand.

On the other end of the move, we had a similar encounter with a representative of the new provider. Because the new account is in Randy’s name, he had the joy of the initial conversations and the physical set-up. Since this is a cable system, he brought home a large armload of equipment, which he informed me consisted of a modem, two routers, and a bunch of cables. “Have fun with that!” I said, as I continued unpacking the mountain of boxes. (Important note: it’s been many years since we had cable TV.) Everything seemed to be going relatively well (I didn’t hear too many mutterings or sighs), although there was one protracted call to a customer service representative related to TV set-up. Once again, I heard the words “modem and routers” in frequent use. When it was time to check the internet connection (the lifeline to my professional world), things did not go as well. That service call ended up requiring both of us—me on the phone with a very patient young man, Randy on his knees reading miniscule numbers and letters on the bottom of the equipment. Again, the words “modem” and “routers” were being used—until the magic moment when Randy read off a serial number and the agent said, “But ma’am, that’s your cable box.” Randy and I looked at each other and burst out laughing—those “routers” weren’t routers at all, and yes, we had completely forgotten how cable TV actually works! It wasn’t the new technology that stumped us, it was the old! In between guffaws, Randy gasped, “No wonder that other agent seemed so confused!” Again, two people unable to understand one another or accomplish a joint task because they were using the same words but with very different points of reference.

jumble of cables

How many communication impasses are rooted in this very thing? How often do we share common vocabulary with our interlocutors, but fail to see (or care) that they are using those same words with very different meanings or from a very different point of reference? What would happen if we took the time to ask more clarification questions? Especially if we dare to listen across the divides (whether those are political, theological, racial or socio-economic), what small breakthroughs might come if we explored more carefully and thoughtfully the reality behind the rhetoric? What if, rather than assuming that our conversation partners from “the other side” are being stubbornly obstructionist, we were attentive to the possibility that we have some small shared goals, if only we can find the right language to express them? I’m not naïve—there is no doubt that the divides of our day are deep and may be, in some cases, unbridgeable. But what if a commitment to listening across the divide might lead us to some places where fruitful, redemptive conversation can happen?

 

 

The Blooms I’ll Never See

Dr. Rachel Coleman

This morning I cut spent blossoms from one of the rose bushes I planted several years ago in memory of my dad. Dead-heading the roses to promote more blooms is not an unusual activity for me, but it was different this time. In contrast to most years, when Friday mornings and many evenings are spent in the therapeutic tasks of cultivating a thriving flower garden, this spring has been mostly wistful glances at the hyacinths, irises, peonies, clematis, lilies, and roses as they’ve cycled through their blooming seasons. Spring and early summer have been like a monsoon season—not just gentle April showers, but May and June torrents as well—so there have been few days for anything less urgent than mowing the grass or cutting back the wildly exuberant wisteria that wants to take over the property. But I realized this morning that the dismal weather has made it easy to pass over the real cause of my “gardening inertia.” We’re in the midst of packing up to move and I’ll be leaving this garden behind. Staying out of the flower beds has been a way to disconnect from bittersweet realities of transition and the lack of hands-in-the-soil grieving over the loss of the garden has been a way of insulating myself from other griefs.

Rose

But this morning—another misty dawn filled with the promise of yet more rain—I just couldn’t pass by that rose bush again. It had a rough summer last year and I thought it was on its way to a sure death over the harsh winter. This spring, however, there were tiny hints of new greenness, so I cut away all the deadness and pruned back the remnants of life, and lo and behold, it bloomed again! Now the first round of blooms is past and I have been ignoring and neglecting it, because I simply don’t have the emotional or physical energy to tackle even the smallest extra task and, after all, I won’t be here to see the next round of blossoms. But this morning, the Spirit of God stopped me as I returned from my walk and was passing by that courageous rose bush with one more wistful glance and resigned shrug. The whisper came, “Prepare it for the blooms you’ll never see.”

And so I did. Every snip of the shears a prayer—thanksgiving for past beauty and whispered hope for future loveliness in this place. It went beyond the roses, of course. That act of caring for a horticultural investment whose glory I will not be privileged to witness is just a metaphor for the bigger act of faith. Eight years of investment in a community and in the lives of God’s precious children in this place have not been wasted. The beautiful blossoms we’ve been privileged to see will pale in comparison to the glorious blooms that are still to come as a result of gospel seeds planted and watered, of careful and patient tending in the seasons of drought, freeze or tempest, of exposure to the life-giving water of God’s Word and the sunshine of his Spirit, and of faithful care by new gardeners.

Let Paul have the last word, in his reminder to the Corinthians about “gardeners”: “After all, who is Apollos? Who is Paul? We are only God’s servants through whom you believed in the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seeds grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose” (1 Corinthians 3:5–8, NLT).

 

“What Kind of People Are We Going to Be?”

“What Kind of People Are We Going to Be?”

Dr. Rachel Coleman

 Last week, the Rev and I spent some time in Charleston, South Carolina, our first visit to that lovely, history-drenched city. We had wonderful, much-needed days of rest and relaxation, but as we played tourist, there were also unexpected moments of slamming up against deep and pressing spiritual realities.

On a cloudless afternoon, we took the boat out to Ft. Sumter. Standing at the site where the “War Between the States” was ignited by a combination of cold military calculation and inflamed political rhetoric that resulted in the fateful unleashing of Confederate artillery on the Union garrison, a crowd of American tourists was held enthralled by the best Park Ranger presentation I’ve ever heard. With passion and consummate dramatic skill, this gifted man retold the history of the fort in a brilliant soliloquy that was structured around a recurring question: “Was this war worth it?” As he probed that question the final time, his own confident answer was, “Fully worth it—because we had to decide what kind of nation we were going to be.” Those words slammed into me with a force that nearly knocked me to the ground. The sheer weight of the irony of our times took my breath away, and I knew that if I gave in to the threatening tears, they would become an ocean of weeping that would never stop. As the spell-bound group of tourists slowly broke up to wander through the fort, I stood looking out over the sea wall, seeing not the glistening ocean, but images of torches in Charlottesville and immigrant children in cages and school shootings and screaming hate-mongers. “We have to decide what kind of nation we are going to be.” Now. In 2019. In our cities, towns, and communities. In our churches, schools, and families. Whatever we think about the national possibilities, we must decide together in the places we inhabit: “What kind of people are we going to be?”

Ft Sumter

That was a wrenching afternoon; it left me undone, spiritually and emotionally. But Charleston had a gift yet to offer, a gracious and powerful counter-narrative. On a bus tour of the city, we’d been reminded that Charleston was home to “Mother” Emanuel A.M.E. Church, the oldest African Methodist Episcopal church in the South and the place where just four years ago, a 21-year-old white supremacist murdered nine worshipers during a prayer service. As the afternoon was winding down, we decided to make the rather lengthy trek from The Market to Calhoun Street, to pay our respects and pray at this church whose members have shown the nation and the watching world a powerful witness of the power of forgiveness and hope in the face of hatred and tragedy. The beautiful building was closed, so we stood on the sidewalk, praying God’s blessing on these dear brothers and sisters. Just then, a man came out of the church gate, locking it behind him. I asked if he was a member of Emanuel and he said yes. We thanked him and the whole congregation for their lived-out Christlikeness. He responded with these simple words, “We just want hearts to change.” Heart-change—that is the only thing that will help us confront this moment in history, when we are being called to decide: “What kind of people are we going to be?” Will we accommodate to the narratives that loud and influential voices seek to impose upon us, or will we choose to align our lives with the more powerful Story of the One who is at once the slain Lamb and the victorious Lion? In our homes, our work places, our schools, and our circles of influence, what kind of people are we going to be?

Mother Emanuel AME

As we made the journey home, this question continued to press in on me. We arrived back in Dayton to find a city at a crossroads—preparing its response to the unwelcome invasion of a small group of Klansmen from another state, who had achieved the necessary permits to stage a two-hour demonstration on the courthouse square on Saturday. The question was literally in our face as a community: “What kind of people are we going to be?” It was a joy to see the city respond, at least in the short term and at least in the face of crisis, with actions that proclaimed: “We are a people for whom love conquers hate. Hatred and bigotry have no place here. We reject the narratives of prejudice and racism.” The cowardly voice of hatred, even with its megaphone, was puny and paltry under the strains of “Amazing Grace” and chants of “Dayton united against hate.” No arrests, no violence, no injuries—and the nine unwelcome visitors were met with a diverse crowd of over 1,500 people who gathered downtown and in other venues to stand firmly and peacefully against their message. Yesterday afternoon (Sunday), we gathered again as a city on the courthouse steps, to symbolically “cleanse” that space from any lingering shadow of hatred. As the event concluded, Bishop Robert Lyons stood boldly to “discomfort” us with the same pressing question: “What kind of people are we going to be?” When the event is over and the crisis is past, will we allow the same passion for justice, hope, equality, forgiveness, and reconciliation to take us out of the relative comfort and safety of courthouse square and into the neighborhoods where those narratives are most needed? In between the events, in between elections—will we do the work? Not just in our homes and communities and schools and work places—but in the homes and communities and schools and work places of our African American and immigrant and minority brothers and sisters. Will we do the work—not just with our voices but with our hands and hearts and wallets? “What kind of people are we going to be?”

Crowd at love rally