I went to an event today, called The Conversation. A friend and former peer in my graduate program organized it with her family. After Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the shooting in Dallas that all took place in the span of a couple days, she wanted to reach out and talk to people. I was desperate for the chance.
A room full of people, some strangers to each other, some peers and colleagues at work, some part of the same church congregation, gathered in a home that had been opened to them in trust, and in a desire to do something.
The conversation began with my friend asking “How are you all? Are you well? Tell us how you feel.”
A friend next to me said he was heavy. He had been afraid for his brother, for himself, for his friends. Other people around the room expressed their feelings of sadness, hurt, pain, grief, fear, anger, and their perspectives on what’s wrong and what needs to be done.
Quite a bit of the conversation involved engaging. Being intentional and engaging with people we don’t know, engaging with people who seem afraid, uncomfortable. Just engaging. Acknowledging each other’s humanity-especially the humanity of those we don’t interact with on a daily basis.
I expressed at one moment that I felt as if I was co-opting the grief of the black community by feeling such intense pain and sadness at the horrific level of systemic racism that is ongoing in our country. I was immediately told by a black woman that it’s everyone’s grief, and that it helps to know that white people care, too.
A friend related talking to a black co-worker at work, and how it created a bonding moment between them. A white woman spoke of striking up a conversation at the gas station with a black woman she didn’t know. All of these moments resulted in some form of bond, some form of positive experience.
That’s not to say they all will. But it is to say that these moments, these risks, have to be taken. People need to talk to each other. Need to engage. Need to trust.
I have much more to say about this, but for now, I’m just glad I went. I’m still grieving, as is right. I don’t think one conversation fixed everything, or anything, but I do know we all left that space feeling less alone.