When the grand jury decided not to indict a police officer in the Eric Garner case, I joined the protests near Rockefeller Center and found myself behind two white women in a heated exchange. One had an American Girl shopping bag; the other woman carried a sign that said, "Black Lives Matter." The woman with the American Girl shopping bag said, "I don't know why these people are out here."
And the woman with the "Black Lives Matter" sign said, "We are out here because this is a travesty of justice."
The woman with the shopping bag retorted, "Well there is a time and place for everything and this is neither the time nor the place. This is Christmas, for God's sake."
And the woman with the protest sign replied, "Hello, this is EXACTLY what Christmas is about! This puts the Christ in Christmas."
The woman with the "Black Lives Matter" sign kept moving, this one woman, in one of those puffy coats, following the crowds into the sea of protesters, her homemade sign a distinguishing symbol. Here was one white woman taking on another white woman to change the story. She was the one, right then, right there, to be the change.
Our country is in a hot mess; too many dead brown and black bodies to call it a coincidence. Enough bad behavior from folks on all sides so as to distract us from the one important thing: Every life matters and we simply must reform the way we engage one another to honor that fact. We are the ones to make it so.
Years ago, when I felt called to ministry, I thought that I would have nothing to bring and no gift to offer. Newly divorced at the time, I thought I was a failure. And my mentor Michael Livingston said, "The thing is... God wants to use someone just like you, someone who is broken-hearted, to reach others who are broken-hearted. You don't have to be the perfect one, or the good one, you just have to be the one. Can you do this thing? Hell yeah! Be the one!"
Last Saturday, my husband, two dear friends, and I were among the 50,000 marching for this violence to stop now. As we stepped out of Washington Square Park, I thought, "I wish I had organized a central meeting place for all of my Middle Collegiate Church peeps." Then, in the sea of multicultural, multiracial bodies, in the cacophony of voices, I heard a familiar one. Darren, one of our young adults, was lifting his theatrically trained voice, loudly chanting, "Hands up -
- don't shoot!" Over and over and over again. When I asked, "Is your voice tired?" he replied, "I know my role. This is what I am supposed to do."
Darren knew that he was the one, so he began to chant, "Black Lives Matter!" in a lyrical and powerful voice, like a prayer, like a song, like a prophecy.
At Christmas, we celebrate the fulfillment of prophecy; Isaiah foretold a child who would be called Prince of Peace. This vulnerable baby would be sent to heal the world. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus comes from a multicultural people, who Dr. Cain Hope Felder calls Afro-Semitic. The true reason for the season is that Jesus is the expected one, the anointed one, to liberate God's people and usher in a time of peace. He is the one whose life makes all of us the children of God, and therefore peacemakers. In other words, because he is the one, we are the ones.
Now, you don't have to believe in the child-of-God concept to be the one. Open your heart to believe this saying that is so important and so well quoted, we can't be sure of its origins: You and I are the ones we've been waiting for.
Be the one. Be the change.
You will be on a jury. You will be on a grand jury. You will be talking with a woman on the street with an American Girl bag, or leading chants in a march or writing a tweet or a blog or making a phone call when you can change the story. You will be a clergy leader dying in for justice. You will be sitting at dinner with your family and they just don't get it. But you can help them see.
Be the one. Be the change.
I know, you might be thinking that you are not qualified to be the one.
You might wonder like I did, like so many people do, if you have the right stuff, if your voice matters. You do, it does. Even though you are afraid, take a deep breath, claim the courage, be the one. Can you and I do this thing? Hell yeah!
Be the one. At your family dinner table. In the bar at happy hour. At your job. In the cafeteria. In the classroom or at rehearsal. In the courtroom, in a chat room. In your church, in the choir, in your synagogue or in your mosque.
Be the change. Be the one.