I stood beside my mom as the young couple talked to me. They greeted her and then barely glanced her direction for the rest of the conversation.
She’s 84, she’s my mom, and as an elderly woman, she was dismissed.
But then our neighbor down the street came by our house. He is a police officer. It was at just the start of the coronavirus and he knocked on our door. “I noticed your mom lives with you. If you need any help, here’s my card. Text me. I can get groceries for you, keep you informed on what’s going on. Whatever you need. I’m here.”
He saw her and he served her.
The children didn’t see me watching out the window. We had some friends over and their young son played with our kids out on the trampoline. The boy pushed Lovence hard onto the trampoline. Lovence is special needs and non-verbal – older, but without his own voice. This child knew and took advantage of the moment.
It’s scary. Without a voice, he became an easy target.
But then the teachers at Lovence’s school came by for his birthday. The parade included a firetruck, an ambulance and a slew of cars decorated for his special day. They honked and yelled and cheered for my sweet boy.
They saw him and they celebrated him.
I was an overweight teen. A heavy teenage girl who thought tube socks were a fabulous accessory to a plaid skirt. I also bore the most embarrassing last name (Kok). The kids had a field day with my awkwardness, and I withdrew into myself.
I didn’t fit and I knew it… and so did everyone else.
But then there was the valedictorian of our high school class – years later he actually lost his life in the 9/11 attacks. But he was kind to me. He didn’t seem to notice my oddities. He saw me as a human being. He talked with me. He joked with me.
I was seen and it stays with me today.
My Haitian girl was mocked for the color of her skin – dark and glowing and beautiful – but different to those in her circle. She took in those words and for weeks hated the color of her own skin, wishing she could change it.
It’s heartbreaking, such beauty dismissed and demeaned.
But then there was the Kenyan runner in our community – a future olympian who won a 10 mile race with incredible speed and athleticism. My husband approached her and introduced her to our daughter. Her dark skin mirrored our girl and her strong spirit matched her own. In the midst of a busy running career, she took time and loved on our girl.
She saw her and our daughter reveled in it.
I don’t want to cry victim, for even the wrongs brought change. As a result of her heartache, my mom started calling others who might feel invisible – reaching out to the lonely. Lovence is brave, standing in the face of the pain. I grew in my love and compassion for those who feel like misfits. And my Haitian girl has grown a strong sense of pride in her heritage and in justice for the offended.
But I wish it were different.
So for me I want to be part of the BUT THEN movement. Pain comes, but then a tender soul brings healing with their kindness. Riots destroy, but then a community comes together to clean it up and help each other rebuild. Racism demeans but then a nation chooses to live and love and see in new and honoring ways.
And my BUT THEN is to see the people around me. See their uniqueness, see their value. See their beauty. See their strength. See their gifts. Just look them in the eyes and see them, period.
I can’t fix the whole world, but then I can see the people God sets in my path today – be in the moment, look them in their eyes and love them well.
What is your but then in the face of your injustice?
Let’s start a movement.