Trying to Make Sense of Last Week

This year, as part of the Hands and Feet Initiative, The Center is hosting two fellows. Stay tuned here as Melva and Liv share their experiences.

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Today marks my first month as a Baltimorean, the first of many more to come! Stay tuned, I’m working on finding means to shift the ‘baltimorean’ moniker to ‘baltimorer,’ leaving long-time locals the opportunity to claim the ‘baltimorest’ identity. Feedback welcome.

These first four weeks have brought parking tickets (starting a gofundme), sleep schedule adjustment and readjustment, shear bewilderment at the depth of potholes here, and some heavy Google Maps dependence. The learning curve associated with a new city, a new job, a non-college schedule, and finding new community has felt a great deal like trying to drink from a firehose. Amidst all of this, I’ve found comfort in my co-workers, in nearby family members, and in some lovely new friends. These past two weeks I’ve found myself in need of every bit of their presence, insight, bravery, and wisdom.

I, like much of the country, have been gripped by the recent Brett Kavanaugh hearings and Dr. Christine Ford’s associated testimony. I couldn’t look away. I found myself spending more time on CNN and CSPAN and Facebook over the course of the past two weeks than I regularly might over the course of several months combined. I have been even more aware of my identity as a woman. To watch a woman my mom’s age, who grew up not far from where my mom did, recount an experience all too similar to ones my friends have endured felt deeply personal and I’d imagine that the judiciary committee proceedings likely felt personal for many women and men. As the Senate vote approached and it became clear that Kavanaugh would be confirmed, I felt my tense anxiety surrounding the hearings morph into disillusionment and a heavy heavy sadness.

Given the timing, the Senate hearing came down amidst all of my newness that I mentioned before and just as one of our first groups of the fall was getting into town and settling in for a weekend with us. I’ve so been looking forward to getting into the swing of hosting groups at The Center, learning our curriculum, spending time with groups and our partners, and experiencing the work of the Holy Spirit in all of it and I wondered how I’d do so with such a weight in my stomach. I wanted desperately to be fully present but I’m really no good at compartmentalizing.  

How does one remain authentic and engaged in justice-seeking work among youth and their leaders on one scale and dimension when that same justice and will to transform our world and our treatment of one another is so blatantly dismissed on a different scale and in a not-so-far-away dimension?

This weekend, with the events in DC in mind, experiencing youth participant’s honesty and curiosity and courage as they worked in gardens among new friends and caterpillars and mums and morning glory flowers felt a bit like I was in a utopia that was aware of its ephemerality. Such a strange and disparate dual experience might be compared to:

A single floating honey nut cheerio in a bowl of sour milk.

A massage chair in the middle of a mall on Black Friday.

A shiny red and white life preserver amidst hurricane seas.

A warm melting pad of butter on a very cold and very whole wheat pancake.

A mindfulness meditation circle in the middle of a heavy metal mosh pit.

If I’m being honest, I don’t yet have my head wrapped around everything that took place this past week and weekend-- both good and bad. And, truth be told, I have no profound wisdom regarding how to forge ahead when the weight of our nation’s political unrest becomes especially heavy upon our shoulders. What this weekend and my experience with our first full weekend group did remind me is that justice and injustice don’t stand in line and take turns directing. The good and the bad and the wrong and right and fair and unfair all happen all at once and perhaps the best we can do is keep our eyes wide enough to see both. For me there was no putting my sadness for Dr. Ford and our country away as I worked with our group this weekend. But, there was a way to feel that sadness and despair and ask God to permit my sensitivity to also be hyper-aware of the light peeking in through caterpillars and laughter.

-Liv Thomas, Hands and Feet Fellow