As I witness the devastation done to our community, it conjures memories of my first experience with abuse of power. In the summer of 1970, when I was seven years old, my parents bought a ma and pa motel and restaurant. Our entire family rolled up our sleeves and went to work in anticipation of the Fourth of July. My sister and I filled ketchup bottles, made ice, and set tables to prepare for the busiest weekend of the year. What happened next has stayed with me for a lifetime.
The Hells Angels piled in, filling every table. They did not harm us, but they used intimidation to make us feel powerless. They ate our food and refused to pay, wrote graffiti on the walls with ketchup, and shoved silverware in the radiators. They lined up their bikes across the parking lot and spent the day basking in the sun. We watched in horror as our potential customers drove by, afraid to stop. In the morning, we took our brooms to the parking lot, sweeping away the unfairness.
I have always struggled to accept the unfairness in this complicated yet beautiful world. I wish I could sweep away the suffering that we have been dealing with, pandemics, racism, police brutality, and riots. Interestingly viruses wake up parts of the body that are asleep and force our cells to open up and expand. The virus of racism is forcing us to awaken and courageously look at our history. The containments of injustice and powerlessness are the underlying cause of illness.
How do we clean up these social diseases and cultural conditioning that divide us? We listen, and we ask what we can learn from this? We read books and hear stories from people who do not look like us. We use our voice to call and email those who have political and economic power. We have conversations with our children, our parents, and our friends. We claim and use our power in greater and wiser ways to rebuild new systems for a new paradigm. We recognize that each individual has value and a contribution to our society. We show empathy towards ourselves and others as we begin to understand and heal and correct these injustices. We realize we are all one, and the more we work together, the sooner we will reach our higher human potential.
Mr. Rogers told the story of when he was a boy and would see scary things in the news, his mother would say to him, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ He said in times of disaster, he remembered his mother’s words and was comforted by realizing that there were so many helpers—so many caring people in this world. In Minneapolis, we witnessed many helpers of all ages and races take to the streets with brooms, shovels, gloves, and masks to sweep away deeply held, entrenched, and unnamed racial prejudices. We witnessed neighborhoods standing in solidarity, looking out for each other to prevent arsonists from burning down their homes. We watched talented artists paint murals. We experienced peaceful crowds of people uniting for a cause, reminding us that love is powerful, and compassion is a real demonstration of strength.