I have a giant Peace Rose in my garden. It’s at least 15 feet tall and the base is as wide as the trunk of the tree. Not gonna lie. It’s a beast of a rose. My kids have nicknamed it the ‘Peace Dragon’ because of the giant thorns that extend from every branch. We often laugh at the irony of a rose named for goodwill creating so much trouble in the garden– – but maybe there’s no irony at all. Peace comes at a price. It’s thorny and difficult and there will always be barriers. We’re talking a lot about race relations in our country and in our homes right now. We’re also learning how to get along as a family in this world of quarantine and uncertainty.
Humans have a natural tendency towards growth– – it’s natural, but it’s not easy and there are almost always significant barriers. We are going to make mistakes and bump and bruise each other and some of our best efforts are not going to turn out the way we had hoped but we must move towards growth.
During the last four years I’ve spent a great deal of time battling racism and bigotry. I’ve had so many meetings at my kitchen table, gone to trainings, created videos and assemblies, read books, joined boards, spoken to principals, to legislators, and at the UN to combat racism, bigotry and anti-semitism in our community.
And yet, I know very little. It’s messy stuff. Just when I start to think I understand, I realize I don’t.
Let me be honest– many of those boards and committees end with people walking away hurt and offended. So many fantastic ideas and initiatives are abandoned because people can’t agree.
And these are well-meaning people. Passionate men and women who are sacrificing time, energy and money to fight the good fight. There are so many levels of pain, one step forward often feels like two steps backward.
Still, I do know exactly where my actions wield tremendous influence—
At my own dinner table, among my own family, we’ve worked hard to uncover our own prejudices, to understand our own privilege; we read the books and watch the videos and we are vigilant about constantly learning, constantly checking each other and examining our beliefs.
Our three golden rules:
- Be decent to people. Treat everyone you meet as a child of God.
- At home, be vigilant about shutting down any kind of jokes, slurs or stereotypes about race, religion, economic status; about someone’s body, their intelligence or their heritage.
- In social settings, when you hear jokes and slurs and stereotypes – – stand up for the victims. This requires incredible courage. It is so much harder to stand up to our friends than our enemies. Often, our friends don’t even realize they are perpetuating prejudice. Your calm, gentle influence can create profound change.
Maybe it sounds trite to say once again—“It all begins at home. Your greatest influence is in your own family.” But it’s true.
I definitely don’t suggest a Peace Rose for your garden. Like I say it’s a beast. But maybe we should all plant one in our hearts. We are going to make mistakes and bump and bruise each other and some of our best efforts are not going to turn out the way we had hoped, but we must move towards growth.
Do something uncomfortable: write a letter to your congressman, apologize to a family member, make a commitment to yourself. But keep growing — it’s what you were born to do. I believe one of our greatest tasks on this earth is learning how to love our brothers and sisters better. One by one, eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, despite the thorns, we will create a kinder world.