Keeping my pledge to write thirty four weekly posts on how the Camino continues to impact my life, the same as the number of days that I walked this pilgrimage.
I am posting this blog on Friday instead of Monday as I am leaving for a week at our cabin, a place with one bar of cell connection on a good day. I need to explain my last post before I leave.
Last week when I needed to make a correction to my blog. I had only heard about the beating of Tyre Nichols that week through the comments of my husband. “Another black man beaten to death by five police officers,” he said with deep regret. “The footage is just awful.” That was enough for me to decide not to watch it. I knew I was too tired from an overnight flight home to handle seeing that violence. And I will confess that I couldn’t handle seeing George Floyd beaten either. Again I was told the story and that was enough for me to join in prayer and in mourning for all the ways we misunderstand and hurt one another.
So imagine my surprise to learn how I had my own assumptions on this beating. My original post said it was by five white police officers. My husband read my post right away, and quickly told me of my mistake. “It was five black police officers.” This shook me awake. I hope I can explain how it made me see that I had put white police officers (maybe all of them) into a category of being racist. And I had put all black police officers in a category of not being racist. And I wasn’t aware of this at all until my assumption was there, pardon the pun, in black and white on the page. I didn’t see them as individual humans, connected to me.
Again I set up a strange othering.
A few days later I was asked if I would take on a new person seeking spiritual direction. I’ve had several new directees lately and decided, that no, for the first time I would say, not right now. Maybe later. Then I learned that she was Muslim woman refugee. Right away I said I would take her on. Why the change of heart? Maybe because I have a heart for the refugees? Or a sense of superiority that I could help her or guilt that I should offer to listen with her–her with so much challenge in a new culture? Maybe all of these.
But the person who was asking told me that this woman didn’t want to be tied to her story of being a refugee. She was tired of that identity. She wanted to be seen as another woman seeking questions about her relationship with God and growth on her spiritual path. AGAIN, I saw how I had othered her, put her in a category that was separate from me, I texted back to my friend who was asking and said, “It’s good to remember not to other the person that I’m trying to include.”
On the Transformational Listening website (www. transformationllistening.co) there is a quote from an unknown author: “The way to make a better world is to make better humans.”
I understand those words to mean that I need to continue to do my own work at being a better human if I want, and do want, to live in a better world. I need to accept myself first as being human–a human that needs to learn how to love herself better, so she can love others from a place not filtered through prejudices and shame. A place where I don’t project my own pain and bias onto others. A place where I “see no stranger.” Thank you, Valerie Kaur. I see no stranger in myself or in the human community, or even separate from plants, animals, the planet, the universe.
Yes, it seems an insurmountable aim. But here I am, willing to look at two instances in my life last week where I was blind. That is a step, maybe two. I also am committed to finish a book group that is studying, A Soul Without Shame by Byron Brown. I’ve tried to read it on my own more than once, but it hits too close to home. With the support of the group, the book is opening up so many doors I’ve closed to my own loving. It takes a bit of courage to look at it. Yet it’s another step.
As I finish this blog, I think of you who will be reading it–on this same Camino–wanting a better world where a person isn’t beaten to death and a woman is not forced by violence to leave her home country. Not an easy walk this. Struggles along the way. A lot of worry and fear. Some regret. Deep sadness. Some hope. Yet, the journey home to loving ourselves and loving others is only accomplished by taking the next step. That’s my Little/Big Camino not just for this week, but for however long I am blessed to walk this pilgrimage on earth.