I've spent the last 48 hours in Chicago. I flew in on United Airlines. I scored a free upgrade to the exit aisle. Extra leg room.
My lovely cousin picked me up from the airport and graciously shared her beautiful city with me. We went to Portillo's and I had a Chicago hotdog. Tomato, pickle, relish, mustard and hot peppers. I normally only eat hot dogs in the summer and only with ketchup. When in Rome I order what's the local specialty. It's fun trying new things. Sometimes you are surprised you like it.
I got to my hotel where I'm staying for a work conference. I was given a free room upgrade. Corner room. Full windows flank two walls and I have a view of the city.
Last night I sat in my room and listened to the police sirens and news helicopters buzz a couple blocks away at the Trump Tower. There was a protest. Peaceful. When I had enough of the view I pushed the button on the wall and the electric blackout blinds closed.
Today was a full day of continuing ed classes and sponsor booths and catered lunch. Good meetings. We talked about the fallout from the election, about rising regulation and profitability. I found some new tools for employee training and grabbed some trade show giveaways to give my kiddos at home.
At lunch I hoofed down the street to Millennium Park and took a selfie with the bean. Hustled back to the hotel, grabbed a bandaid from the concierge for my new blister and made it back to class with one minute to spare before the break was over.
Halfway through the last session of the day I could bear it no longer and I purchased my online fast pass to the Chicago Institute of Art. I grabbed my Nikes and quickly walked down city streets to the nearest entrance. I was a little giddy.
Rodin, Seurat, Manet, Van Gogh. Georgia O'Keefe, Picasso and Monet. Rooms of Monet. Visions of Ferris Beuller. I love art. If I am ever sad, you could put me in a room with art and my soul will recover.
My cousin got off work and met me at the art museum. I tried to convince her that it is her duty to come view this art on a regular basis because it's here in her gorgeous city. She grinned. We took another selfie, this time with the Chicago lions sporting giant sized Cub's hats.
Then we went to dinner. We ordered a Tomato and Spinach deep dish pizza. And we talked. Of books and art. We talked of parents and siblings. Of work and play. Of roommates and love stories. We talked of children. Her friends in West Chicago, my friends in Rwanda. We talked about hope and pain. About poverty and privilege. I listened to her heart. She listened to mine. We talked about Trump.
Here's the deal. I know walking around in my skin and my life I am privileged. I get free upgrades and catered lunches. My kids get trade show giveaways and museum souvenirs. Some of the kids here in Chicago get moved out of their homes into neighborhoods where they wake up in the night to gunshots. I stay in a hotel with electric blackout blinds.
What would I write if I was not afraid?
I voted for Trump.
I struggled all year long about that decision. I do not like the man. I'm disgusted by his vulgar and angry rhetoric. I hate that my ten year old looks at me with sad and questioning eyes and asks why.
In the end, I voted for Trump because I was more concerned about Secretary Clinton's corruption and policies. About healthcare and regulation and abortion and jobs and ISIS. I'm heartbroken by Syrian Refugees and hopeless kids and deep divides in our country. I don't believe more of the same is a solution to any of the mess.
I'd still vote the same way.
I am afraid that telling the truth and attempting to have the hard why conversations with people I love will mean I lose people. I hate losing people.
Author and speaker Eric Metaxas (author of Veggie Tales and Bonhoeffer) sent an email today in which he wrote "one friend actually emailed me 'You helped make this happen. Our friendship is over'. That hurt. But then I thought about how much he must be hurting to have written that".
Now I sit in my hotel. Watching the city lights. The news helicopters are back across the plaza to Trump Tower. I read a news story that just this afternoon a white man wearing a Trump hat was beaten as people watched and chanted "don't vote Trump". It happened just down the road from here. The beaten man looked a lot like my father. Even as I write this, fear of assumptions is making me want to point out my dad also does not like Trump.
At home the protests have continued four days and have been declared riots after extensive damage occurred. Clearly not a legitimate or legal or helpful way to protest.
Someone said "what would you write if you were not afraid?"
I'd say "I'm listening. Will you?"
I want to listen. I want to understand fully why people are scared and angry. I want to engage and find ways to move forward that we can all accept. I want to help bridge the gap between those hurting people's politics and my concerns for the future.
Someone asked me how I got free upgrades in my hotel and flight. I grinned and glibly said it's because God loves me and likes to surprise me with joy. After my Chicago tour I pause. Hmm. Perhaps I get free upgrades because I'm privileged. My mama pointed out that the privilege is the fact I was on the flight or in the hotel at all. Some people never travel. Which is not a right. For the love. Some people don't have clean water.
There are rights. Free speech. Right to assemble. Right to vote. To pursue happiness. Freedom of religion. For everyone. Not just those who agree with me. Truth is we are all privileged by those rights. Well. We don’t ALL have the privilege of those rights. Syrian refugees come to mind.
So here is what I'd say if I was not afraid.
I'm not sorry I voted for Trump. I believe given my options it was the lesser of two bad choices. However. I am deeply sorry that I did not use my privilege and resources in the primaries to ensure better candidate choices. I am sorry that I have not met my neighbors. I am sorry that I don't know the name of the pastor of the largest Black church in my community. I am sorry that I close my windows when the noise is disturbing my sleep. I am sorry I have been afraid.
I shall do better.
My cousin and I talked about some of our failings. When our passion for our projects was not enough to make a difference. When our privilege got in the way. When people tuned out because we did not understand.
I agreed with Metaxas when he wrote "For a Christian, the first thing to do after something this divisive is to pray for those who disagree with you and show them some love. This stuff is complicated, and there are legitimate concerns. (I'm not talking about the people burning flags and cursing in public....). So please let's give each other the benefit of the doubt. I want others to give me the benefit of the doubt. So I have to do the same for those disagreeing with me. We need to assure those we disagree with that they are loved and respected as fellow Americans, and, more importantly, loved by God. This is the work of being a Christian. It's not extra credit Christianity. It's the guts of the faith at its most basic level."
Can I suggest that rather than unfriend and block and close your windows and just put bandaids on your blisters that you respectfully talk with someone different than you? That you listen to understand, not to find holes in their argument. That you don't beat the man in the street. Or hate the man in the street. You don't break things, break friendships, break hearts.
I love my cousin. She is different than me in many ways and the same in some. I'm proud of her. I'm praying for her this morning as she goes to work and to church. I'm praying for her friends and this beautiful city. I'm praying for Trump, like I pray for Obama and for Bush before. I'm praying the voters like me who plugged their nose and checked his box will not be afraid to hold him accountable to lead and protect everyone. I'm praying for those who were with Hillary and those who walked away from the whole mess.
I'm choosing to ignore my fear and extend my hand. Will you? Will those of you who hate Trump and assume that since I voted that way that I must be a hateful bigot please drop your assumptions and listen? Will those of you who are horrified by burning flags and stopped traffic slow down and listen? I'm afraid of what will happen if we do not.
More so, I'm hugely hopeful in grace. In breathing. In prayer. In kindness. In forgiveness. In this big beautiful diverse country. I'm more hopeful than afraid. Courage is not the absence of fear. I believe that honest conversation in a spirit of grace can help heal our national soul.
What would you write if you were not afraid? I'd love to know. I'll take you out for dinner. Let's talk. I'll listen.
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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