Last night, my church, Journey, was one of many to host Dallas Dinner Table, a once-a-year set of small table dinner gatherings across the metroplex to engage in respectful conversation about race. I had never participated before, and I was really honored to be a part of it. I love the intentionality of it– setting aside time and space to meet people you don’t know, to hear perspectives other than those in your circle, to speak openly about conversations most people find it difficult to bring up. It’s done very thoughtfully, and that creates a great space for conversation to happen.
I was reminded last night of the tension that often exists between our passion and desire to do something immediate and tangible, to put out the fires of racism so to speak, and the reality of the very complex systems and layers at work before any real lasting change can be seen. We want magic beans that sprout an instantaneously impressive beanstalk when what we have is an acorn that, while beautifully full of potential, will take years and years to grow to majestic heights. And while it’s misguided for us to assume immediate results, it’s irresponsible to walk away just because the smallness of the acorn overwhelms us.
I confess to feeling so overwhelmed this year by the evil shadows and forces of racism. I confess that I haven’t known what to do in the face of my deep sadness. I get angry, I get sad, I get depressed, I get frustrated… What do I do? Where do I begin? What would be most helpful? How are we still so divided, fifty years after we remember the life of Martin Luther King? Our acorns can feel so small, sitting there in the palm of our hands. But they are indeed full of potential. We have to plant them, and water them, and wait for them, even as we plant more and water more.
Teresia, my table facilitator, asked us at the end of the dinner what we personally could do as a response. And I committed to write every day this week on my blog about race. It is such a small thing, such a tiny, paltry step in the face of all the hatred out there. But it’s something. It’s something I can do this week. It’s not the only thing I’ll do…it’s just the first thing. So I won’t fret over how small a thing it is. I will see it as a way of continually committing to be a person who moves toward justice and reconciliation.
Sometimes, racial reconciliation and justice begins with a dinner with strangers. Not a life-changing dinner filled with thirty amazing action items that can begin the next morning. Just dinner. Just a gathering around the table and an exchange of emails and an awareness that we each have power to plant acorns and water the saplings others have planted. We can’t do everything, and we can’t do anything to fix the root of the problem immediately. But we still have so much available to our willing hands.
What do you have available to you this week that will speak goodness and grace into a world too often filled with violence and hatred? What small thing is available to your hands? We’re reminded that Mother Teresa told us we cannot do great things, only small things with great love. Only acorns.
Conspire for good this week, all. It is never a wasted effort.
***If you’re in Dallas, and you’re part of a non-profit organization, here’s one thing you can do this week: join Dallas Faces Race.