Pass the Light

“Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.”

– Andrew Boyd, Daily Afflictions: The Agony of Being Connected to Everything in Universe

Tonight I sat in a circle with a group of women ranging in age, pain, and hope for the future.

The air was heavy as the weight of all minorities sat upon our hearts and our minds.

Every generation was represented, from the Millennial and on. After eating a delicious array of food, sharing wine, darkening the room, and lighting a candle, we took turns passing the flickering light from one hand to the next.

The candle holder shared her gratitudes and then her hopes for the future following the election of the most anti-anyone-who-isn’t-white-rich-and-conservative administration on the ballot. Their forms awash with the warm glow from the small, flickering candle, each shared a thought on social justice.

light reflected in wine glass

Many spoke through tears. Some spoke of fear. Most seemed hopeless.

From my position perched near the pot-bellied stove to warm my back, I studied their faces. So many of these women had burned the road before me. While I laid under a tree in my parent’s front yard reading Judy Blume, they marched through city streets with protest signs. While I worried over addition problems, they knocked on doors. When I was molding Play-Doh, they were molding minds. Each had fought her own battles to earn the same respect that I have no doubt taken for granted.

It seemed to me the hardest battles were already fought. As far as civil rights were concerned, these ladies already threw the revolutionary party and I was just now arriving to sweep up and wash the dishes.

I’m good at cleaning up, I thought.

The more who shared, the more it became apparent to me that so many felt hopeless. As if each were thinking, “How are we here again? How have we taken so many steps backward after all the progress?”

While listening to these women speak their truth, an image of my 7-year-old daughter flashed through my mind. A day after the election, she attended her usual evening art class and brought home a picture she drew of the American flag. She was so disappointed after the election and wanting so bad to see the first female be elected as president. My daughter handed me the picture, which carefully depicted the correct number of red and white stripes and stars smudged with white color pencil barely visible on ivory card stock.

I am not afraid. I know that although these ladies have already blazed the path ahead, and it now lay carved out and ready for tread, it would not be without times when we feel a shadow has eclipsed the sun.

“It’s our America, mom,” she said.

drawing of American flag

She was right. It is still her America. It is still my America. To these women, I wanted to say, “America let you down, but this is still your America,” but instead I spoke of hope.

My voice broke, but I told them I will write loud and speak in metaphor. I will be an example of a loving human being even to those who don’t deserve it or return it. I told them they had already done the work. I will finish it. We will finish together, if they like. I told them my generation was roused, we were ready, and we needed to be given the chance to turn the boat against the tide.

I am not afraid. I know that although these ladies have already blazed the path ahead, and it now lay carved out and ready for tread, it would not be without times when we feel a shadow has eclipsed the sun.

Pass me the light.

Because just as author and activist Andrew Boyd reminds us, the truth will set you free, but first it will hurt like hell.