If you’ve ever heard me share my story of faith, you’ve probably heard me talk about my friend, Bernice, with whom I worked in my early days of banking. Bernice was different. She made me want to have what she had; a sense of peace, a calm, and calming presence. She exuded what I’d call the presence of Christ. Even as I think of her now, I picture her in my mind. I love her dearly.
Though, we’ve lost touch as we’ve moved on through life, Bernice remains one of the most influential people in my life. In fact, when we would talk, I referred to her as the pastor for the pastor. Whenever I needed urgent prayer, Bernice was on speed dial. Somehow, I felt, she had a special closeness to God in a way I still see in few others.
Yet, faith is not the only way Bernice changed my life. You see, Bernice also happens to be African American. She is a beautiful, wonderful, strong in ways I cannot even imagine, powerful, wonderful, loved filled, God-centered, Black Woman.
Therefore, as a result of my connection to, friendship with, and love for Bernice, I could no longer be silent. I can’t when I see, what seems to the non-marginalized, like small things and I certainly can’t with obviously, even to the most naïve, bigger things.
I couldn’t then and I cannot today. When I see Charlottesville or any other number of daily occurrences I am able to not encounter, I must speak. If I don’t, not only am I part of our broad societal problem of hate, the love I claim for my friend, or any other person as my faith compels me, is disingenuous. It’s false, it’s phony; with silence it’s just words. And, love calls me to move beyond words.
Whenever, I hear or see hate in our world, whether it’s that seemingly harmless racist joke, young men being killed, or incidents like Charlottesville, I see Bernice. I think, “How would Bernice feel if she encountered this, heard this, or loved the person to whom this happened?” I might not be able to do much in this broken body, I cannot even leave my house unassisted, but I can give what I have. (Acts 3:6) I cannot be silent. If necessary, I’ll lay down my life for my friend. It’s what love calls me to do. (John 15:13)
Thank you for reading and considering my words. If you’re struggling today as I am, I offer these few additional words from Mahatma Gandhi.
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”