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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

Awakening In This Moment

This is a time of deep crisis and reckoning in the United States. For many, including for me, it is a time of sadness and anger over the way black and brown people are treated and have been treated since the first white people touched foot on the shores of this country.

While sheltering in place since the middle of March, we have had a lot of time to think and reflect. We have seen how COVID19 has impacted and disproportionately killed people of color and also the people who do the heavy lifting of serving others in this country, often the very same people. The longtime inequities in health care, home ownership opportunities, who is imprisoned in this country, and a long list of other ways in which people are treated unfairly: this is all coming to the surface now.

While sheltering in place, I have completed rewrites of my second play. I was feeling pretty good about the play and the shape it had taken. I’d even sent the play off to contests around the country.

Then on Monday morning, when I was taking a shower, I had a realization, an awakening that I have written a play suffused with white privilege. The main characters’ concerns are those of people who haven’t had to confront the reality that too many people in this country face: that a man might not come home alive after going out in the park to birdwatch. Or that a woman might be awakened from sleep, shot, and killed in her own apartment, like Breonna Taylor.

I realize now that I need to write a different play or reshape the one that sits on my desk. I feel embarrassed and sad that it took me so long to realize this. But there it is. And now comes the work of thinking and exploring how I might write a play that reflects a more inclusive view and that moves us in a positive direction.

A friend posted an article on social media from the National Catholic Reporter written by Bryan N. Massingale, a theology professor at Fordham University. “If white people are unwilling to face very uncomfortable truths, then the country is doomed to remain what Abraham Lincoln called ‘a house divided.’ And he warned that such a house cannot stand. What to do next? Nothing. Sit in the discomfort this hard truth brings. Let it become agonizing. Let it move you to tears, to anger, to guilt, to shame, to embarrassment.”

As I read his words, I realize unless I allow myself to sit with and feel the sadness, the rage, and the discomfort that I won’t be moved to witness, to discover the truths, to listen fully, and to take appropriate action. I’ll be tempted to move onto something easier, lighter, to escape what is important and needed. How do I know how to act, and when to act unless I have greater understanding? I must be in this moment, and the next moment, and the one after that. This is what we can do when we sit in meditation, when we walk, when we are still, and when we seemingly do nothing.

My hope is that we each awaken to this moment with renewed energy to make positive changes in our own lives and in our communities.

Be well.


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