On Jan. 19, I attended A King Teach-In for the second year in a row — hosted by Wilshire and Friendship-West Baptist Church.
The first year I was brand-new to Wilshire. It was the same weekend Rev. Barber had come to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. We were not just honoring the legacy of “the dreamer,” we were speaking of the “drum major for justice” — and his work is not done. I was on fire. Finally, I had found my place that talked about this world, justice and participated in the larger family story.
The Teach-In has been equally powerful for me both years. The first year, I came by myself as I didn’t know anyone really yet. I sat at a table with members of Friendship-West and fell in love. They get excited like me. We jump up and down, hug and get all excited when truth is spoken. It is a balm to our souls.
Funny how just hearing truth spoken frees the spirit even before anything has been done to move forward. I think it is because we see each other face to face. We are saying, “I see you,” “I know the system is wrong,” “People from our community have hurt you and are allowing it to continue.” There is nothing like sitting together with a group of people who all want something better. We want life, and we want to do it together.
The most powerful moments both years were when a soul needed their pain personally spoken. I witnessed both moments sitting next to both people, and it is so holy it is hard to write.
The first year George spoke on white supremacy and privilege with boldness and courage. There was no watering it down to make it easier to digest. A sweet woman sitting at my table stood up and asked George: “What does your church think of you preaching like this?” It hit me hard how little the black community thinks white churches care about racism. She hugged me so tightly. She asked if I went to Wilshire. She wanted to come see a church that lets a white pastor preach like this. I hugged her right back.
The tiny glimpse of her pain and joy that I could imagine was knowing my own joy being at Wilshire after searching for someone who would speak against sexual assault. Hearing over and over again that it is wrong broke me free from the chains that had held me down in shame. So this hug was one of the most powerful I have ever experienced, and I will never forget it.
This year, the talk about government and advocacy was educational and enlightening. But when Freddy Haynes and George were taking questions, my friend mentioned how she wants to help ethically, but needed a creative way to do it based on her circumstances. Freddy caught what she meant. “Let’s talk about the immorality of a country that doesn’t pay school teachers enough to take a vacation,” he said. It was a moment. My friend tried to pass it off, but I was on my feet saying, “No, he is naming your pain.” I was hugging her.
This got me thinking — and when I think, I often go to Patch Adams. This movie is full of wisdom, and it is has guided my life in many ways. The joy Patch brought to the medical field (namely bringing light to the wisdom of those we label mentally ill). It is what I want brought to our world of faith. We have the best story, but so many are walking around in chains versus liberation and joy.
Patch Adams said; “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, you win every time.” I can’t help but think that is what we have done the last two years. We are naming the disease, as we should. We can’t ignore the disease. But maybe the most powerful way to treat the disease is seeing each other. It is infectious.
I know it changed me. It has set my soul on fire. I had to hold myself down from running laps. Do you hear the truth being spoken? Do you see joy coming from people longing to be free? It is the best story