We are what we carry. How lovely and privileged to have the ability to set down what we carry. Or to get help with the load. Carrying in groceries. Stacking firewood. Tackling a fallen water oak blocking the driveway. But what if what we carry is the cultural and ancestral weight of history. I realized that I am not a person that has “people”. I have friends that are Cuban or from the Dominican Republic. I have friends who are black – African Americans – born in this country but who’s ancestors many generations ago were brought to this country as cargo, as property. I have Jewish friends (Cuban Jewish) whose abuelitas have Holocaust tattoos on their forearms – women that passed decades ago. I have Greek friends with grandparents back in Greece. They all have “people”. I don’t have people. My roots go back to pre-colonial America, pioneers to the new world, Colonizers. They settled in North Carolina and fought against the Crown in the Revolutionary War. Americans before there was an America, before there was a United States. And while I know the history of my ancestors.
I feel like have absorbed so much of the diversity of what makes this country great. Growing up in Miami in the 70’s and 80’s…how could anyone escape the melting pot? And want to know more about and understand my friends. I want to know what they carry. That is how I am a friend. I will ask. Tell me your story. I am interested in you. And if they share their story maybe they share their burden, and if I can help carry any of that burden, I will. I know, you cannot carry someone’s grief, especially not generational grief. You cannot carry someone’s anger or bitterness or fear. I cannot truly know what it might have felt like to float on a raft of inner tubes lashed together, across the Florida Straits, to escape Communism. I don’t KNOW. But, if I am present and listen, if I am compassionate and genuine in my interest, if my friends know that I want to know them – KNOW – them. It means I will listen and in my quiet listening they claim their space. There is space for everyone.
It is not an appropriation. It is a welcoming. And we stop being strangers. In the sharing and in the presence we become brethren.