This past Sunday, the Intertwine Northeast community gathered for our last morning of our “The Need for Roots” series. Our conversation was about simply being rooted in compassion. It’s this idea that all of life is interconnected, so how we show up matters. Intertwine, as a community, gathers to support one another in building lives that honor that interconnection. (Check out more about our “ways of being” here!) We do this through sharing our questions and stories, through wrestling with tradition and culture through dialogue, and through sharing with and supporting one another in our successes and failures. I’d like to take a minute to share some stories, reflections, and “leftover” thoughts I have about our morning together. Here gos!
The Power of a Story
This past morning, Ariane Kokes shared a stored with us about her family’s recent small yet powerful act of speaking before the Minnesota Legislature. With her permission, I’d like to share her story with you all.
The Kokes children are made up of 3 triplet boys, one of which has special needs. As Ariane shared with me, support and resources can often be in flux for families like hers, and having a child with special needs can be incredibly expensive. Over the last year, there were two pieces of legislation under consideration – one that would cut funding and support to her family and others, and another that would decrease the fees for families that have to pay in for Medical Assistance. As both pieces of legislation would have an affect on her and her family, Ariane decided to show up before our state representatives with her son to tell their story. The lawmakers were moved with compassion, and action was taken to decrease MA fees by 13% (though they asked for 25%). It’s a drop in the bucket, but every drop matters for families like Ariane’s.
As we were listening to her story, I found myself reflecting on how powerful just one person’s story can be for moving people into a compassionate response. I also thought of the simple miracle that took place when Ariane was able to show up in that moment with her child, just exactly and authentically as they are, to speak their truth. And ya know what? She didn’t have to tell their story and be so vulnerable in a very public space. She could have done some wishful thinking and easily resigned herself to ranting on social media about how ___ party in our government doesn’t care.
But instead, she acted. Instead, she was courageous. Instead, she was honest and open about their very real human experience – this is a transformational act! This gives space for empathy, for learning, and for growth. It creates the space for a miracle. It creates space for connection, for relationship, for rediscovering our shared humanity, and for healing.
It gives space for compassion.
Goodbye, Scapegoat Way of Being
scapegoat: a person who is blamed for the wrongdoings, mistakes, or faults of others, especially for reasons of expediency
I find myself often revisiting my old Rage Against the Machine albums. It is music for right now. Like in “Take the Power Back”, where Zack de la Rocha sings,
No more lies…
No more lies…
No more lies…
No more lies..
No more lies..
No more lies
No more lies
No more lies!
Honestly, why do we settle for dishonesty?
I feel like we as human beings have just accepted it as fact, that our way to be human is to avoid taking action and instead to blame someone else for the whatever “what is” or status quo that we have resigned ourselves to.
It’s ___ fault that the environment is going to shit.
It’s ___ fault that the economy is stifled.
It’s ___ fault that this relationship isn’t working.
It’s ___ fault that I’m feeling this pain.
If we’re really honest with ourselves, we know this scapegoating stuff isn’t working. It hasn’t worked for all of human history. Yet, we continue to lie to ourselves and to others. We continue to cast blame instead of taking responsibility and acting for healing, reconciliation, and new possibility.
Frankly, I’m bored with the scapegoat story. I also know that I’m fortunate and privileged enough to just be bored (aka, complacent and complicit). I was born into middle class white America. It’s my privilege. Others lose their life because of this scapegoat story.
But aren’t we all dying inside each time we accept the status quo as ultimate reality? Don’t we all die a little when we’re unable to recognize each other’s “human being-ness?”
The scapegoat story is no longer inspiring – but you know what is? Story-telling is. Compassion is. Healing is.
Birthing a Compassionate Way of Being
We talked a bit about baptism on Sunday. Baptism is a symbolic drowning and rising to new life – to a different way of being human.
Yet, baptism seems to show up in two ways in our current American culture:
the sentimentalized, make grandma happy, baby in a white gown, sprinkled water, words by a nice man in front of a nice community, brunch, and then see you maybe on Christmas because that Silent Night song strokes my nostalgia, but otherwise I won’t be seeing you because you’re so unfortunately lacking in relevance and value for my life.
the “we’ll fear and shame the hell into you until you are ‘inspired’ by the Spirit to get saved, by accepting Jesus into your heart, saying the magic words and to taking the magic dunk (even though you were already baptized as an infant – that one didn’t count), and now you’re now a part of our gay bashing, Muslim and immigrant scapegoating, burn up all the oil because this world doesn’t matter only the heavenly one does, and now I got my ticket so let the mother heathens burn, and that’s biblical truth crew!
It seems to me that baptism has *maybe* become a little about scapegoating, too.
So we talked about this – what could baptism be for our community?
What if it could be an invitation to counter-culture?
What if it could be about living as if humanity was something that was shared – by everyone – not just the group in power? What if it’s really about practicing compassion for one another?
BIBLE TIME! So, John the Baptist was a man who lived in the first century Israel-Palestine. It was a time marked by Roman militarism, corrupt religious leaders, and exploitation of those who already had little to begin with. Sound familiar?
John was this spiritual guru and prophet (a person who doesn’t lie) out in the wilderness near the Jordan River. There he invited people into a different way of being human than what was offered by the dominant cultures, and masses of people took the plunge. John created a movement, one that Jesus of Nazareth would continue. And the movement was simple.
The crowds were asking him, “What then should we do?” John answered them, “The person who has two tunics must share with the person who has none, and the person who has food must do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they said to him, “Teacher, what should we do?” He told them, “Collect no more than you are required to.” Then some soldiers also asked him, “And as for us—what should we do?” He told them, “Take money from no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:11-14 NET)
Baptism was an invitation to let the scapegoating, “might makes right”, “more money for me forget everybody/everything else” way of being human drown. It was an invitation let drown the lie of powerlessness and acceptance of the status quo that the marginalized are pressured into. It’s an invitation to let drown the scapegoat story and to emerge out of the waters/womb to a connected, honest, loving, and creative way of being human in community. And it’s so simple… it’s simply an invitation to share!
I’m not sure how you feel about baptism. Maybe it’s been overly associated with the two stories above, so you keep your distance. I get that. I distance myself from those stories, too. But in America’s current state, an invitation into counter-cultural community grounded in honesty and compassion is really appealing.
What if dominant and marginalized alike, began to live as if one another’s and one’s own humanity mattered? What if we honored that connection and through simple acts like sharing our story and our wealth? What if we began to deconstruct the systems, like racism and white supremacy, that create dominant cultures in the first place? What if we created a truly shared humanity?
Instead of perpetuating the shame and fear of the scapegoat way, we can create a world of healing and love through simple acts of compassion.
The Power of Together
The militarism, chauvinism, racism, individualism, consumerism, scapegoating, etc., etc., just isn’t cutting it. We need a different way of being human, and we need the support of community to create it. Together, courageously choosing to do those simple acts of compassion moment after moment leads to the transformation of our homes, neighborhoods, and planet. It’s the power of together.
I’m fortunate to be creating community with people like Ariane. We’re a community of real human beings that have a story to share. We’re people who want to support one another in the small, courageous and transformative acts of everyday honesty and compassion. And no, you don’t have to be baptized to be a part of this movement we’re creating (especially if it’s a baptism into indifference or scapegoating). You are invited to just be your honest self with other people seeking to be their honest selves. Together we’ll let the scapegoating drown, and we’ll birth lives marked by a simple, creative, and active compassion.
Summer is almost here, and with it will come a new season for Intertwine. We’re calling it “In Bloom.”
We’ll spend this season inviting one another into the moment. We’ll soak in awe as we consider the Mystery and what it means to be part of something beyond ourselves and beyond our full understanding. We’ll get honest about what keeps of from being present, attending to our attachment and where the stories of our past may be pre-determining a future we don’t wish to create.
We’ll learn from the pollinators and explore community – how our lives work because of relationships, and how we are cared for and can care for the eco/systems we’re a part of through contribution and restraint.
And we’ll explore the power of self-actualization for the sake of community-realization as we encourage and support one another creating lives that are in full bloom.
Join us for a summer of connection and creativity. Let’s gather as community, and create conversations and experiences that call us into the fullness of each moment. It starts Sunday, June 18th (10-11:30am) at East Side Neighborhood Services.
We’ll be present together there!