Last night as I was about to go to sleep I asked the Lord to speak to me through a dream. My oldest daughter has done this on occasion with some exciting results, so I thought I would give it a try. Then I woke at two in the morning having experienced a disturbing dream, wondering if this could really be from the Lord. I dreamt that there was a demonstration going down our street, and some of the people from the demonstration had broken into our house and demanded that we leave. I was very scared and wondered where we could go. My mind was saying to go to the forests, but I could not think where there were any. It never occurred to me to call the police, never occurred to me to fight back, never occurred to me to take my car. In my dream it was simply grab my husband and my dog and run. Horrible dream.
Surely this was not the response to my request asking the Lord to speak to me. And yet as I read some of the posts from the States this morning, of peaceful demonstrators being shot at with plastic bullets, of carloads of young white men travelling into the demonstrations and wreaking havoc, of police failing to protect property, it somehow felt similar to my dream. And let me add that the people who broke into my house in my dream were all white people, like me.
I asked the Lord what he was saying to me through the dream, if in fact he had given it to me. I sensed that he wanted me to care about what was going on. I thought I already did. Then I was asking the Lord what I could do about it. Surprisingly I felt the Lord bring to mind the plight of people in long-term care facilities in Ontario. Many residents have died with Covid-19 complications, and because staff were falling sick also the premier had called in the army to come and help. The army reported situations of horror in some of the homes, where the old people were getting inadequate help, to put it mildly. I realized that this was a situation I could speak into by communicating with my premier, and also encouraging others to do the same. And I did just that. But I made a mistake. I posted on social media with the title “Old people’s lives matter”. Fortunately, my younger daughter was quick to respond and to point out that co-opting a slogan particularly attributed to the black community and organized response to racial violence, at a time when racial tensions are heightened, might be taken the wrong way. She was right, and I quickly changed my title. But I felt so bad. Here I was trying to do something to help, and I could so easily have upset some people by the way I was doing it. And I felt led by the Holy Spirit to do it too. Maybe the Lord used my daughter to correct me quickly so that I avoided hurting people, but I was still disappointed with myself.
It breaks my heart what is happening in some major cities in the States right now. I had not realized how bad it was there, although reading about how Covid-19 has affected people in New York, and particularly polarizing the different communities, has horrified me. Not that we are free of racism in this country either, especially in our bigger cities. I so long to be part of the answer and not part of the problem.
I have been part of the problem though. Not deliberately, but I made some mistakes. I was teaching a math class one time, and we were talking about looking down on situations from above and drawing pictures. I demonstrated one from the side, of a pig going behind a barn. Then I demonstrated another one from above, of a person from a certain country wearing a hat and riding a bike. I thought nothing of it, until a few days later when I was called into the principals office. I had naively considered all my students to be Canadian, no matter what their skin color, although I knew we had some recent refugees from somewhere in Africa. I had not even considered that there was a student from the country I had referred to, and nor did I consider that if there was he would be offended. Quite honestly I was shocked that he had been hurt and had shared his offense with his mother who wrote a long letter to the board office. I did, however, know what my response should be. Because I still did not know who the student was, I apologized to the whole class. And when I was given the opportunity to read the letter from the mother, I also wrote a letter of apology to her admitting that I was at fault in the incident. I had not understood how sensitive she already was, due to many negative words spoken against her country.
I believe it is time to speak out against racism, against ageism, against anything that is wrong. There is this verse in Ezekiel that has always spoken volumes to me. Ezekiel 9:4 “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” That tells me that it is not enough simply not to participate in evil. We are called to grieve over the detestable things that are being done. To pray as if it were happening to our family. To stand with those who are suffering. We, the church, have been called to make a difference – let’s be sure that we do.
“Lord, help me be sensitive to the pain of other people. Help me to know how to stand with them and help them. Help me to not simply go on living my life and ignoring what they are going through. Help me to know how to support my brothers and sisters who are afraid for their children. Help me to be part of the answer and not part of the problem.”