Live, Move, Be

human sartre de beauvoir moi

Today, I am so inspired, encouraged and strengthened by these beautiful people. Howie and Lysander and a dozen more from DGFUMC are being present to other beautiful people in another city. They are being that being that is also becoming because they live and move and have their being in God. And as they become, they immediately give themselves to others – who, in turn, give themselves back – each being and becoming more of themselves, more like God. This, an exquisite dance that is, well, human.

Who knew wielding a power tool could be so profound?

Cinco de Mayo (aka, 3 weeks before I turn 50) – Day Nineteen

cinco de mayo sam

A century before I was born, a noteworthy event transpired in another part of the world. It is directly related to Mexico’s victory over the French occupying forces at the Battle of Puebla that Cinco de Mayo commemorates. Though that battle did not give Mexico decisive freedom from Napoleon IIIs occupation, it was a significant turn toward that end. The Mexican army was outnumbered 2 to 1 and under qualified; still, they crushed the French army on May 5, 1862. It is speculated that if the French did win at Puebla they would transfer forces to aid the Confederate cause in the US. Instead, Mexico held on following the win, and after the Civil War’s end, the US offered political and military aid to Mexico ensuring they would wrest a final freedom from French occupation June 5, 1867 – cinco de Junio!

These Independent-Study history lessons continue a common theme: everything changes. nothing changes. Whether it is a significant incident in the year of my birth, or 100 years before it, when society does not collectively remember its history, hubris – or despair – catalyze a repeat. Friends are only friends until the friendship is no longer useful. Or, uncomfortable. Or, becomes embarrassing. Or, horror of all horrors, costly.

But friendship is inherently costly—whether between individuals, communities, or countries—because it is only friendship when each gives up the self. Voluntarily. Out of love. In solidarity with the other. And love does not come with conditions. Anyone who has ever been to a wedding has heard 1 Corinthian 13. But love is not just for those who marry. Indeed, marriage is symbolic of our relationship with God. It is symbolic of our covenant with one another to regard the other with dignity, as one created in the image of the God of all that is created – and not yet.

cinco de mayo nik

In (nearly) 50 years, what has changed because I exist in this world? What remains the same because I lack courage? My mother gave me a Bible at an important time in my life. She included a verse on the opening page – what felt to me as a prophetic blessing: “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Josh1:9)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Or dismayed. I can – and must – be a part of making things right in this world. It is what makes me human. One of those ways is to stand in solidarity with my neighbors and friends from Mexico whose dignity is disregarded. Today this is what I remember to be, and that having lived (nearly) half a century I am not finished. But the courageous are only thus when in the company of others who do the same. Are you in?

Act Human – Day Sixteen

Human kind and present

On May 2, 1967, the Black Panthers entered the California State Capitol building, guns at their sides. Theirs was a demonstration, advocacy for their right to defend themselves against racism in policing. They wanted to police their neighborhoods by being present (carrying guns in compliance with CA law), observe arrests and other law enforcement activities. Huey Newton, the Black Panthers’ leader, actually included a law book with his rifle to remind officers of their civilian rights.

This group of people were not encouraging violence. Rather, they meant to be informed eyes, accountability for what history proved to be race-motivated, and excessively punitive action on African-American communities. They were not afraid to assert their rights and encourage others to do the same. Indeed, the Panthers alerted journalists to their plans, so when they entered the CA Capitol building, journalists followed to record the proceedings.

I am absolutely in favor of gun control. The Black Panthers’ strategy in this instance is not one I would promote. At the same time, what they were about was precisely what all humankind ought to be about: that better personhood characterized by kindness, generosity, caring for those who need care, sharing with one who has none of that which I own two. It began as a wholesale resistance against white culture, but shifted to a more class critique of society. Still, the reaction of authorities remained extreme.

In January 1969, the first Panther’s Free Breakfast for School Children Program is initiated at St. Augustine’s Church in Oakland. By the end of the year, the Panthers set up kitchens in cities across the nation, feeding over 10,000 children every day before they went to school. In Chicago, Fred Hampton, leads five different breakfast programs on the West Side, helps create a free medical center, and initiates a door to door program of health services which test for sickle cell anemia, and encourage blood drives for the Cook County Hospital. A few months later, police enter his apartment and shoot him in the head as he sleeps.

I only knew of the Black Panthers as a militant and violent group. Nothing was included in my education to explain what they were ultimately about. And there certainly was no outline of the reasons behind why they assembled in the first place. It is important to recall history—especially since it often seems it is repeated while I remain naïve of past efforts to make things right.

So, today, I have a little more information on a movement that frightened a lot of people yet also did an enormous amount of good. I have little physical energy to start or promote programs that do goodness, rightness. I can write and research and try to get others thinking about and motivated to love mercy and to do righteousness in this world. I am at a loss as to how I can get this damn blog to a larger audience, though—the audience that needs encouragement to continue in their efforts, or motivated to begin something they are passionate about. Do you need that? Can I help you? How might I help? Be human. Be kind. Be present. Together.