11.6 miles from my home

I kept my phone off yesterday. It was a writing day and I’ve been struggling to stay separated from the headlines.

Just before dinner, I decided to scroll through social media and saw the news of George Floyd. In Minneapolis. 11.6 miles from my home.

I was tired. From a long day. From the steady stream painful news. From social distancing. I thought about turning my phone back off again.

I didn’t know what to say. Words have been hard these days. But not saying anything was worse. You don’t sit next to a friend who is in pain and not address it, just because it’s hard. This was 11.6 miles from  my home.

When I woke up this morning, I knew I had to drive down to 38th and Chicago. I wanted to go early because I’m still not ready to be around crowds. But I wanted to be there, if only for a moment. It’s 11.6 miles from my home.

Twenty or thirty people stood around a growing memorial. A mix of Black, White, Asian, Hispanic and Native American. Some brought flowers. Some took photos. People stood quietly. Spread out.

A few people took turns addressing the crowd, with a quiet, morning level of anger, frustration and grief. One African-American woman took the microphone and said, “Thank you to the white people who showed up today. We need you white people. You still hold the majority power. You still call the shots. Slaves weren’t freed until the white people chose to make them free. Women didn’t get the vote until men changed the rules and let them. The Civil Rights Act didn’t happen until the white people in power voted for it. Tell your white friends we need them, too. We need them now. Because this has got to stop.”

Sometimes you just have to show up. Bear witness. And begin to see that whether the problems are over here or over there, us or them, you or me, 11.6 miles or just around the corner…they are our problems. And we need to fix them together.

I don’t have the answer to all of this. I am not the one to lead. But I’ll stand with you. I’ll listen. I’ll learn. I’ll talk about it. And I’ll walk with you. You are not alone.

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