“If you are asked about your nationality, ethnic origin, or blood line, smile enigmatically, Say, “Scar Clan.” — Clarissa Pinkola Estes
With every sacrifice, we give something up to make something else sacred.
“If you’re white, you have privilege,” the black speaker, a woman, said.
I sat in my comfortable living room in the desert and stared at the screen of my 65-inch television. The fan on the ceiling rotated at slow speed, keeping the air conditioning circulating through the space. Early evening sunlight filtered through the big picture window that frames the neighborhood, showcasing the orange trees, the lemon trees, the bougainvillea, the oleander, the cacti, and bright-colored blossoms of myriad succulents.
My black nightgown draped against my body which was satisfied after a healthy dinner. The pile of books on the table next to me waited for my evening attention. My reading glasses rested on top of the stack. Their subjects were diverse: The Giver of Stars about the life of women in the 1930s in Appalachia, There, There, a novel describing what it’s like to be an urban Indian, Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman, a treatise on the Soul of America. I love to read, to escape into the words and worlds of others, fictional or not.
My tea rested on a colorful mug-rug on the table; I like it well-iced, so frost had built up on the side of the glass. A crumbled Kleenex lay next to it.
“I disagree with the notion that because I’m white, I’m privileged. Let the speaker walk in my shoes and see if she still calls me privileged,” I thought. “I’ve been so broke I’ve had to gather recyclable bottles from the road to buy medicine for my daughter. I lost someone so dear to me I didn’t exhale for years. I damaged my body so badly in a freak fall nearly 30 years ago that I haven’t known a day without pain since. My inner thoughts were strident. I don’t like strident.
“You have no idea, no idea, what it means to walk the world with black skin,” she finished. If her voice had been strident, I probably would have turned her off. I don’t like strident. It was anything but. She was honest, real, powerful, and strong. Her lovely feminine voice was coming from a deep feeling, a place of love, Truth speaking to be heard.
So, I listened. She told her story. It was very moving. She was right. There were many things she had experienced that I have not. My heart went out to her. I like to think it joined hers.
It occurred to me that I could sacrifice my thoughts of self-importance, my story, to make sacred hers. To make something sacred means to regard it with deep respect and reverence. Making her story sacred didn’t mean negating the value of my life and my experiences. It just asked me to make space for both. To be moved by both. To hold both as if they were my own, and they are.
The young black woman’s story faded from the screen and was replaced by one about the coronavirus. This news piece showcased a chorus of young women decrying legislation requiring that we wear masks in public. Such rules were an abridgment of their freedoms, they said. Their voices were harsh and peevish, so it was hard to listen. I changed the channel. I don’t like strident.
They were right, I reflected. Wearing a mask is an abridgment of freedom. It’s a sacrifice. We give up the right to a free nose and mouth, for what? I have my answer. For me, wearing a mask makes sacred having respect and reverence for my health and the health and well-being of others, for those I love, for life. The women were saying that they made freedom sacred. They said they could think for themselves and needed no one else to tell them what to do. It would have been easier for me to respect their voices if they had seemed to emerge from true love of freedom. They sounded more like children having temper tantrums. Nonetheless, I feel challenged to understand their beliefs, to make a space for them, even though I disagree.
Seems like this is one of the central questions of this moment: What are we willing to sacrifice in order to make something else sacred? Can we sacrifice beliefs to make LOVE sacred?
Copyright 2020, Linda Sandel Pettit, Ed.D.
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash
Dr. Linda Sandel Pettit, a priestess-at-heart and retired counseling psychologist, can be found at www.thedrspettit.com. Linda loves putting her intuitive nature, spiritual understanding and clinical experience in service to others. She is available for on-line consultations. For information about fees and packages, visit BOOK NOW. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.