I have been silent in this place for two weeks, and quickly, this day is moving beyond me. Before the sun sets again let me tell you about my Gratitude and Joy.
Seventeen days ago, I received my first Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. I spent the greater part of the next 5 days in bed, grateful that the vaccine was working, but feeling waves of muscle pain all over my body. I was mostly confident the pain would subside, but a small part of me feared I would move straight into a Lupus flair. I thank God the pain ended.
Able to move, I had to make up for lost time. We were into Holy Week, the Christian tradition ending with the Easter Triduum, three days of prayer and ritual remembering the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. The Maryknoll center was abuzz with preparation. I now had fewer days to prepare and hang an exhibit of Church Banners, by our Sister Joanna Chan, to open with the Easter celebration. These banners range from 6 feet tall by 3 feet wide to the largest ones 4 feet x 12 feet and 9 feet by 6 feet. I needed my whole body to work in that effort as well as my friend Giang’s and Joanna’s help too.
In the midst of all this activity, I was also giving myself to an effort to address the injustice that persists in this country against the “other.” My effort begins with acknowledging the hate crimes that happen, to being curious about how these crimes impact my friends, sisters who are different from me, to stand by them as sisters, and to seek a better way of being together.
I also am exploring how I benefit from the system that creates the “other.”
Every system has a normative group that sets the standard. In the United States, since our founding, the normative group has been people with a lighter skin tone, people with less melanin in their skin. I am part of that normative group and I benefit from the standards set within the system. While engaging life every day, it is difficult for those of us who benefit from the system to even see the system and the ways we benefit. I can understand why so many people don’t believe they benefit more than others. Each of us are living what we know.
As a Maryknoll Sister, I live with sisters of Asian, African, Latin, and Indigenous decent. I have witnessed the “othering” that happens when I am in the store with one my sisters, or in the park with a group. But it was many years ago in Brooklyn that I learned what “othering” looks like. A friend of mine from St Lucia had asked me to accompany her to another part of Brooklyn where she was to meet someone who had information for her. (This was before the age of cell phones). My friend had only a name and apartment number. We approached the door, my friend was in front of me, she knocked on the door. A woman came to the door, looked straight past my friend as if she were not even there, and politely greeted me. I said, “not me,” and stepped back even further. From that moment, I have been curious about what people who look different from me experience.
These weeks have been full of life, energy, and curiosity. I am full of gratitude and joy to be alive, to be engaged, and to be curious.