What Makes You Come Alive?
It dawned on me (ha, ha—pun alert) sitting here staring out the window at the breaking morning light (what has happened to me? why am I waking up so early? who the hell knows): I have sorta/kinda become the family historian. How can I not admit this when I recently THREE times told to family members the story of the Mississippi ancestors, a story they didn’t know. Then my thoughts turned to Howard Thurman, who says, ” Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive.”
Something about the past makes me come alive. Else I wouldn’t research, remember, and recite these stories. I wouldn’t share them with you. But that realization gives me extreme trepidation. I can’t be one of those folks who worship the past. Cue the “my ancestors died under that flag”; “you calling my people monsters?” folks. If you dig a burrow in the past and wedge your body inside, you’re cramped, covered in dirt, blinking in the dark. You’re not alive. You’re a mole. I don’t want to be a mole.
Howard Thurman is the genius mystic who mentored Dr. King and radically changed Christianity in America. He would never burrow into the past. But using the past to come alive to the future….
For me that thought releases the fear. Dug-in heels relax, mulishness recedes. More charitably, the protectiveness is assuaged. It’s a “yes, now.” Yes, that’s our past. Now, how do we move into the future with it?
But if someone doesn’t want to move into the future, how does that feel? To be honest, as if they want the past to BE the future. It’s a stripping of motives into the light.
Our options on coming alive
Seems to me when it comes to our relationship with a difficult past, we’ve got 3 options:
The Mole: Unexaminedly protect our family heritage
The Thurman: ask how I can live that heritage into the future
The Racist: actively deny the problems with our past because I really, really want a time when white folks reigned, Black folks knew their place, and we all got along without divisiveness.
We all have choices.
What makes YOU come alive?
The breaking light at the window that made me ask: What makes you come alive?