“Do you have a bird?” One of the volunteers at the local coffeehouse co-op asked me today as I set my tea on a table. Before I could ask her what she meant, another volunteer said no for me. The first woman disappeared from view, returning a minute later with a beautiful white paper bird attached to a card bearing the word Peace. She handed it to me without explanation and went about her day.
The beauty of her gift meant all the more to me because I was at the coffeehouse to write my first post of the year, and my heart was longing for a bit of peace. I am bewildered. I can no longer afford the luxury of believing some of my most comforting beliefs. This is not the first time in my life I’ve been bewildered, but it is the first time my own discombobulation has been shared, in part, by millions of others.
I am blanketed in layers of confusion. Even when I narrow my focus to what I am directly responsible for, I am puzzled by the possibilities of actions and responses and which ones to choose. Something as seemingly simple as posting on social media has become fraught with tension between wanting to be counted among the resistance against the ugliness and evil being perpetrated by some of the most empowered people in this country and wanting to embody an oasis where those exhausted by the darkness and overwhelmed by the clamor can find a bit of light and peace.
I worry about being judged by people I love and admire as less invested in the good fight than they are if they choose to be more vocal about position on social media than I do. I fret at the thought of possibly losing friendships if my chosen means of counteracting hate takes on a different form than many in my circle.
With fear, confusion, anger, and indignation running hot right now, I know all too well the temptation to draw clear lines of division so we know who is us and who is them. And, to be blunt, I fear being counted as them by those with whom I share similar values if my expressions of those values is not identical to the rest of us.
I’ve experienced such ostracizing before when I moved away from organized religion and found myself cast out of some of my dearest relationships because I no longer lived out my devotion to radical love under the umbrella of a particular religion. I was wounded by those experiences, and I see my fear of being treated that way again cropping up in my thoughts, making me uncertain how to speak or act around people I have always felt like myself around. What if it happens again, this time at the hands of people who helped me find healing and belonging post-excommunication?
For that question and so many others, I have no answers. But I do have a bird. A bird given to me by a stranger who did not ask who I voted for or if I marched or what my stance is on DAPL or DACA or abortion before extending kindness to me. She inspired a new question in me, one I will ask again and again as I do my best to stand for the earth and all who occupy this planet: Right here, right now, what will love do?