As news of Charlottesville is breaking and spreading across my newsfeed, a friend shares beautiful photos of a family vacation at a national park. Another, comments on the joy of having family all together at the beach. And I think, how can you share beauty and joy when we’re reeling in pain and hurt?! How dare you be happy when we are back here feeling so sad?
What am I saying?
That my sadness should quench your gladness?
No. That’s just wrong.
Then, I heard from a girl – UVA grad, lover of Charlottesville – she is overwhelmed and sad, also terrified, but mostly heartbroken by the news from the day, but the next day she shares…
“Celebrating by spending the day making beautiful music with my friends.”
She’s no pacifist, and no wall flower. No stranger to a march or a protest, and certainly not one to pipe down. But her words struck me. In the day the world handed her – the very next day – she planned to make beautiful music.
Wow! What was I meant to do with my next day, the day the world handed me…this day?
Yes, some are meant to march. But some are meant to make music – music that soothes the soul. Some are made to write poetry – poetry that expresses the heart. And some are meant to tend the flock, feed the sheep, and love the lambs. All the lambs.
Out of anger (even if it feels justified) comes hate, hurt, and hostility.
Out of love (love that is justifying) comes care, compassion and creativity.
That is the nature of love. We can’t let hatred blind us to the beauty we’re meant to see and be.
Perhaps the greatest loss in war, is that the poets, painters and composers, the great artists, march off among the patriots and return, absent their vision, their words and their music. Without these, what hope do we have of rescue from the ravages of war?
We’re not all meant to march.
Some lead by marching.
Some lend by soothing.
Some lift by tending.
Let us do what we’re meant to do, as boldly and fervently as we can, in the name of Love.
God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:18-20
l’il college town,
All the school year, full of UVA Wahoos,
going to football games, going to class,
going to pubs down at the Corner.
Just like everybody.
Come from Virginia and everywhere,
to Mr. Jefferson’s University,
to get a college degree and
to learn about life,
in the classroom and on the lawn,
from their professors and from each other.
The University in Virginia.
Situated in the center, caught in the middle,
between north and south,
black and white,
slave and free.
Where combatants gather,
and the shouting starts.
“It’s my right to say what I want,” they say.
Words of unkindness,
words of disrespect,
words of damnation.
Words that pelt, pummel, and break.
More than rocks through a glass window,
words leave shards, lying on the pavement.
The war of words has come to Virginia.
We the people of the middle.
To Charlottesville, family home of a
man of great words. History remembers him.
History belongs to no one.
The future belongs to someone.
Not you. Not me.
of the Middle.
Bold enough to see
that freedom is extended, as well as taken.
It’s not mine, if it’s not also yours.
If what I say hurts you,
I must strike that, not you.
Praying for Charlottesville …
Tender town in the center;
where the words
I pray for you
incline your heart
to pray for me.
The Loving Story is a documentary focused on Richard and Mildred Loving and the landmark 1967 Loving vs Virginia Supreme Court case that led to legalization of interracial marriage in all states. This was screened for Charlottesville area high school and middle school students as part of the Virginia Film Festival which celebrates its 26th year this weekend.
Of the screening, Festival directors recall, “the students couldn’t believe that a mixed-race couple would be breaking the law.” They invited the lawyer who argued this case before the Supreme Court in 1968 to come talk to the children and also the Loving’s daughter, Peggy, to tell them what her experience was like. “The kids gave them a standing ovation,” the directors wrote. Every time I think about this it brings tears to my eyes.
To kids, history is just an old story. Something that happened once upon a time.When they can see it – see how people were, how people thought, how people acted – and feel it – feel how people were mistreated, neglected, denied, disenfranchised, they’re changed. When they can see how little sense it made “back then” and realize the “back then” was not so long ago, we’ve got their attention. They stand and applaud people who had the courage to change what was wrong, even as they faced incredible hardship and long odds.
This is what the arts do. They help us see the unseen, hear the unheard, and make sense of it all. They give us eyes to see and ears to hear in a new way. A more expansive way. A more inclusive way. This seems a better way. The arts make things approachable and tangible. They allow us to discuss them around a common table.
Too often we find ourselves telling our old stories, expecting the “younger generation” to learn from us. Our old stories are not pristine. In fact, many are tarnished and worn. But we must tell them in a way that opens eyes and ears around a common table because that is how we can find common ground to make new ones.
Our world needs new stories. Stories of loving that may not be lovely. We may need to start with history but if we are to learn from it, we need the arts.