(This post originally written for My Colorado View.)
This is the first post I’ve ever made to this blog. I’ve met many of the other women who write here and I didn’t think I could write anything as well as they could. Well, I hope I’m wrong, because I just discovered My Colorado View. I didn’t expect it, but during a rally yesterday had an epiphany of sorts.
It all started when my son told me he had to play in the pep band for Michelle Obama’s speech at his high school yesterday. My first instinct was to tell him there was no way I was going to let him do that and then lock him in his room. I had known Michelle Obama was going to be speaking at his high school, but had blocked it out of my mind. We had to go to the school and move his instrument and music to a place where the secret service could check it. After I dropped him off, I posted about it on Facebook. Someone from the Arapahoe Tea Party commented that I should join the people holding signs the next day. I knew that AFP-Colorado was also going to be there. I decided that sounded like a great plan and I could kill two birds with one stone as it were.
Well, I dropped Brady off at the school just before 7:30 in the morning and the crowd was already starting to line up. I drove around the area a few times to see if any of the others had arrived yet, but they were running a bit late. I finally found some of the group and joined with them on one corner and started doing my part by holding one end of the banner, “Will Work for Gas”. It was as I was standing in my neighborhood, outside the excellent school that has taught my children, that I thought of what this neighborhood meant to me and what we should be doing to actually be heard.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved that we were there letting people know how we felt about what’s been going on in our country. I’ve been to other events and had a great time, but this time was different somehow. I couldn’t tell how at first, but then I realized what it was. We were missing our chance to really share our message in a meaningful way. This wasn’t just waving signs and calling out to cars. This was people, many of whom were walking by us to attend a visit by the first lady, someone who meant a great deal to the people attending. There were families with young children and they were dressed up for the obviously important event that they wanted to share with their children.
I was already feeling as though I didn’t have anything to offer to this group, so I just stood holding the banner and just watched the people. We had some people who were calling out to the crowd and I even called out once in a while. We all wanted our thoughts to be heard and for Michelle Obama to know how we felt. But, were we really speaking to Michelle Obama or the people arriving to hear her speak? Every time someone was walking by and we called out, we lost our chance to show our true selves and connect with these people.
I didn’t feel the epiphany coming. I guess that’s how epiphanies work. They just sort of sneak up on you and then burst into your mind like an answer to a question you didn’t know you were even asking. Mine started to really start moving when I saw a small African-American family walking toward the corner across the way so they could cross the street and continue to the school. I watched them and remembered when my husband and I moved here 16 years ago, to this exact neighborhood, with our two small sons. The neighborhood welcomed us and made us feel a part of it from the beginning. It’s where I learned to love Colorado and where our sons grew up to become Colorado natives. It had nurtured our small family through good times and bad. We have made lifelong friends here, attended church here and my kids have attended all their years of school here. Right in this beautiful neighborhood we were standing in. It suddenly made this rally much more personal to me.
I watched the young boy and girl in this family and saw their reactions when people in our group called out, “Hey Michelle…Shut up and eat your broccoli.” I started to have a strong feeling in my chest that this was making them uncomfortable. What if they had never been in an all white or mostly white neighborhood before? What if all they and their parents knew of us was the crazy stuff in the media that says we hate the president because he’s black? What if they thought we were yelling because they were black? I didn’t want them to feel uncomfortable or scared in my neighborhood. My kids had never felt uncomfortable or scared there and I was starting to feel strongly that we were handling our rally/protest the wrong way. This was our chance to make an impression on these people. To show them we’re not the way the media has portrayed us.
A bit later I saw two women driving by looking for the school. They looked at us and even though they saw our signs, they felt comfortable enough to try to ask us for directions. Just as I was trying to give them the directions, someone called out again about Michelle and I was unable to help them. I saw them after they had turned around and were waiting for a light to change. I let them know where the school was and places they could park if the school parking lots were all full.
That’s when I realized it. We had missed out. We were so busy trying to get our message to Michelle, we didn’t realize what our message to these guests in my neighborhood was. We needed to see them. We needed to understand their need to go and see a woman they greatly admired. I thought about how we could have done it better. The signs were great for getting the message to the passing cars and many people honked in support, but we lost every one of those people when we yelled something about Michelle.
I realized we need to be for something, not against something. Sometimes we let our passion and our anger about how we feel about President Obama and the changes he’s made to our country overshadow the message we’re really trying to get out there. I think when it’s a more personal situation, like a neighborhood, we need to change our approach. If we need to call out, it should be a list of things this president has done that we don’t approve of. Many of these people might not know some of these things. After all, they probably watch network news or channels like MSNBC. I think we could also have some fliers with these concerns to hand out as people walk by. They might just throw it away, or maybe they’ll give it a glance and see things they didn’t even know about. We still hold our signs, but we also make them feel welcome in our neighborhoods. Let them see we’re not the screaming maniacs the mainstream media has tried to convince them we are.
I think about today. Will any of those families feel as though they were welcome in my neighborhood? I don’t think they will. Neighborhoods aren’t the same as rallying downtown, or at some event. I want people who come to visit my neighborhood to feel as comfortable and safe as I’ve always felt here. We should all feel that way, otherwise we just help widen the divide between us. It’s our love and compassion that will change their minds, eventually.
I don’t know if I fit in at these rallies, but I’m not going to give up on my need to take part somehow. I’ve had fun before, but this time I learned more than ever before. Why can’t my feeling about my neighborhood extend to my feeling about my country. I’m attending Restoring Love in Dallas, TX in July because I know love will be what saves us in the end. Now, I’ve felt that love in my own Colorado neighborhood. I know there are more ways to reach out. Believe me, I can yell out our message as loud as anyone, and with just as much passion. I just think sometimes there’s a better way. I’m a mom. I stood there yesterday as a mom, wondering if any of those people would feel comfortable coming to my neighborhood again. I don’t think they would and that makes me sad.
That’s My Colorado View.
I’ve also posted this at: My Colorado View