Imagine that you decide to attend an event of one of your favorite authors, you go alone, you register early, arrive early, find the perfect seat and wait for the show to start. You are joined by a group of ladies, strangers; one strikes up a conversation with you. At this point you are warming up to the idea of chatting, you place your mediation podcast on pause, and you dive into a conversation about faith, the world, and comfort the woman on her daughter's misfortune.
You have found a companion. You feel less like an uninvited dinner guest and more like a welcomed addition to the family.
A woman approaches, she is the friend of your new companion. She has "special access" and therefore has seats in the front but notices your seat is in just as good of a location and next to her friend. She talks to you about the school, brags about her pastoral position at the university, and then ask for your seat. First, she ask politely, not wanting to impose but still feeling familiar with you after the brief chat. You politely decline knowing that you chose the seat for a purpose and you don't have the special access to take hers. She adds pressure. "Will you not allow me to sit with my friend? I will give you my pass?"
You look at your new companion, the woman that made you feel less alone at an event full of people twice your age, all with a different but shared skin tone than yours and resign yourself to the fact that you are outnumbered. Your new friend has her loyalties, so you will get no help there. You politely and quietly get up, thank the woman for her access pass and move to a different seat.
How do you feel?
In that moment, I felt pressured. Bullied in a sense. Powerless to hold onto what was rightly mine. There is two train of thoughts running through my mind at this time, the idea that there are some people in this world that feel entitled to everything, and I do mean everything. The other thought was one of empathy and understanding. She, like me, was sitting alone.
Where is the truth here? Where should I attach meaning? Does the public conversation on race and privilege play any part in this situation or have I taken on the sentiments of the world and layered it onto this particular experience?
The author of the night was Anne Lamott. Lamott wrote my favorite book on life and writing, titled "Bird by Bird." Last night she was there to talk about her latest book "Hallelujah Anyway." Anne also spoke about grace and mercy.
Maybe the conversation I want to have here is no matter the situation you and I find ourselves in we still have control over how we respond and even how we think and add meaning and context. Just maybe grace can be applied here.
The truth is all of us are messed up and are out for ourselves at times, so the criticism I want to place on this woman for how she made me feel, how she took what was mine, is the same criticism I can put on myself. I hate or feel strongly toward actions I am guilty of doing or better said I strongly point out the things in other people that exist within myself.
There is no bow I can wrap this in. I felt the way I felt. However, somehow, understanding, empathy, and grace found its way into the equation.