There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole…
I’m a little late with the posting this week. It’s been a time of deep reflection as the words keep resounding in my head:
“I’m happy with what I’ve got.” The words were spoken so long ago.
I was sitting in the lobby of the welcome inn at the base of Mt. Rainier. My boyfriend had gone to the bathroom. I want to say right off that I was a fish out of water from the get-go. I am not an outdoor enthusiast. I don’t like hiking, and I do not find snow sports invigorating. My idea of a ski trip is a hot drink in the cafe while I watch folks glide or tumble down snowy hills. However, that morning I was in love. The sun’s rays bounced off the peaks of the Cascades so brightly that the mountains appeared to be draped in diamonds. It was breathtaking.
I had gone on this day trip to share an outdoor bonding experience with my boyfriend, and that was how I happened to be reading a book, taking in the view, and checking my watch in exasperation. I mean, really, how long could a bathroom run take?
A tall, sixty-ish Caucasian man appeared in front of me. His gray hair had receded to the middle of his scalp and his glasses did not seem to be helping him much with the map he held in his hand. His taut frame was swathed in khaki pants and a checkered sports shirt—everything neat and creased. I was the only Black woman in the lobby—and a woman who could be singled out.
“I’m happy with what I’ve got.”
The truth is, I could have been at home doing the things I loved—baking bread, singing, or writing poetry. To hell with bonding, I thought later, it’s way overrated.
The man had addressed me in such a business-as-usual-just-another-day kind of way. I was stunned. It took perhaps five seconds for our eyes to meet as he blocked my view and less than that for him to respond. When my boyfriend returned with food (it had been more than the bathroom after all) I could not explain what had happened inside me. Having allowed myself to be drawn into someone else’s assumptions about who I was, I witnessed something inside of me, something lovely, something that identified with the colorful wild mountain flowers, evaporate like snowflakes dropped into fire.
It only took only a few seconds for our eyes to meet and for him to respond. It took years for me to release the rage and, frankly, shock.
This man may be dead or alive, but I only have one snapshot of his existence on earth: the memory of words expressed about someone he didn’t know based on the color of her skin.
What snapshots do we leave behind? This week, with a death in my spiritual community, I’ve thought about word snapshots a lot. There are folks who’ve been hurt by my words and folks who have found healing. Which snapshot do I want to leave behind?
I’m not a political analyst, anthropologist, social worker or scholar. I just know the power of words.
That night, as I wandered through my apartment in search of healing balm, I turned to the writing of poems.