A significant responsibility with my job is listening. This is not to say I am naturally a good listener. I have to work on the skill daily, and one of my training grounds is facilitating support groups with students. One of these groups in particular is in a adolescent drug rehab just south of downtown Fort Worth. I meet weekly with 6-8 young men whose lives have already been ravaged by drugs.
I ask a lot of questions. My job is to help them think about different aspects of their lives. And, depending on how things are going for them at the moment, I never know what I will hear.
My groups are of mixed races and backgrounds, but overwhelmingly, minority. Typically we will see a one or two white guys with the rest being a mix of African American or Hispanics. Surprisingly, many of these young men will take responsibility for their drug problem and know the impact it has brought upon their family and friends. Most young men are not quick to take responsibility for their mistakes. Rehab will give you the time and space to come to these realizations.
However, there seems to be an underlying story with many of my students of color. I do hear some about the mistrust of law enforcement, but also about economic and educational inequality. Most of the students I encounter have had a friend or relative shot and killed. Many have been shot at themselves.
While sitting with students in rehab, a story starts to emerge. You have to listen hard and do your best to extract yourself from the emotions, but eventually you will hear the narrative.
Lately this narrative has been surfacing at a greater volume across our nation.
The problem is many think these these stories are just about injustices with law enforcement.
The underlying narrative of inequality and injustice for our African American friends is one that many in the white community just don’t want to deal with. It is a hard narrative to reconcile with what many of us feel currently. Living lives of privilege, it is incredibly hard to see and understand someone who have never experienced these concepts in full.
In other words, those with hope things will be better will struggle to relate to those who feel hopeless.
For many of us with privilege, it is easier to side with entities that have traditionally felt safe and on our side (education, the justice system, economics) than those who have been historically maligned by those systems. Imagine what life would feel like if you couldn’t really trust the systems others were able to trust?
Yes, things are a lot better in many areas than they were before the civil rights movement. I would think minorities today would have a greater sense of hope than those of previous generations. However, I could be completely wrong.
Hope is a very powerful thing. During Advent, we hope for something better and more like God had intended. We look forward to something we don’t understand, but know is better than what we have created with our own hands. The coming of Christ into the world means God is on the move and the systems and principalities of the world no longer hold.
The Kingdom of God brings hope to the hopeless. With the birth of a baby in a nondescript town 2000 years ago, something new came into the world. A new Kingdom. As a part of this kingdom, we find a call to bring hope.
Those in the Kingdom mourn with those who mourn. We stand up to injustices, even when the evidence supports something else. We lay down our desire to judge who is deserving of punishments and death. Those in the Kingdom understand the responsibility to bring hope like Christ did for us.
Hope destroys hopelessness – which might be an equally powerful force.
During this time of unrest and frustration in our country, let us stand with our friends of color and those in a place of disadvantage. Let’s mourn with them for their losses. Let us repent for the places we have sinned against them and contributed to the systems of injustice and inequality.
As Christ did for us, let us bring hope to those who feel hopeless.