Like many others, the video released this week of the murder of Ahmaud Arbery shook me to my core. Initially, I had no words. The sadness, anger, and shame that immediately built up inside of me all at once was enough to emotionally drown in. I am so sad that this young man’s life was stripped from him at all but especially in such a hateful way. I am sad for his mother, whose worst fear became a reality. I am sad for my non-white friends who live in this fear every single day. I am angry that things like this still happen. I am angry that only now arrests have been made — because had it been two black men killing a white man, would it have taken two months? And I feel inexplicable shame because most of my thoughts surrounding this have not been very holy.
Yesterday, I came across social media posts planning to dedicate runs to Ahmaud. Today, May 8th, would have been his 26th birthday. He was born on Mother’s Day in 1994. He died on February 23, 2020. So today, runners all over are dedicating 2.23 miles in his honor, sharing their participation with #IRunWithMaud. This morning as I set out to participate, all I could think of is: what is running really going to do?
Where Do I Start?
When instances like this occur, I think it’s a common reaction to sincerely want to help make real changes but feel overwhelmed about where to start. Thoughts like “I am just one person,” I don’t have a huge influence,” and “Does my voice even matter?” creep in and we may share informative posts or retweet hashtags but in a few days, move on. I think that is where some of my aforementioned personal shame comes from; I want to make meaningful contributions but have often been guilty of not making it a priority to find ways in which to carry out those intentions.
While out running this morning, my thoughts kept going to three things:
- My sphere of influence may not be large, but I do have one.
- How can I make it a regular practice to combat racism within that personal sphere?
- Do I have any personal biases that need to be checked?
I am so tired of seeing things like this continue to happen. I am so weary at times thinking about the world that my children are growing up in. But I am also not going to sit back and believe that there is nothing I can do about it, either.
Small Efforts Can Make Big Changes
In My Personal Sphere
Most of us will not lead or reach groups of hundreds or thousands, but we each have small circles in which we can have an impact. My mind immediately goes to my family. My prayer is that my husband and I are mindful of teaching our children that our most important task on this earth is to live in love. I want them to have confidence that they are fully loved and that there is no one on this earth that God loves more or less than them. I have heard people say, “I don’t see color” when talking about those of other races. But in my opinion, differences are something to be recognized, appreciated, and celebrated. I want my kids to know that value and beauty are in all things, and in all people. If we all are intentional about bringing about change in our own small circles, I am convinced that the eventual overlap makes a big difference overall.
In My Interactions
I was also convicted this morning about how many times I have listened and sat silent or even participated in speaking against another person for any reason. Any conversation that devalues someone has a negative effect on each person present. Life and death are in the power of the tongue, and those who are good with words are often the ones who can effortlessly go between the two. I know I personally have to be mindful of my expressions and be intentional about choosing to think before I speak. I want to challenge myself to utilize my words for good to illustrate to my children the importance and power of kindness, patience, and love — and use them boldly to speak up when prejudiced comments are encountered.
In My Heart
Finally, and most uncomfortably, I believe that it is important for each of us to explore our biases. What are my thoughts and attitudes towards specific actions? Do I have unfair preconceptions about any type of person? Do these thoughts or feelings spill out into the way I speak about or treat others? What are those around me picking up on from my interactions, social media posts, etc.? Digging deeper into these examinations makes me feel like those moments in church when the subject seems to be completely aimed at stepping on my toes. It can be unpleasant enough to make me want to crawl under my chair, but it is also freeing to grasp hope of changing for the better. I want to be humble enough to see areas in which I need to change and be bold enough to do it.
I’m not sure what running today has done for everyone else or our communities as a whole, but it has given me the opportunity to dive a little deeper into how I can personally help encourage change around me. So to my original question of “What is running really going to do?” — I suppose it just depends on how deeply we each search our hearts and respond to the needs of our community when we participate in these organized demonstrations. That is my hope for all of us — that we continuously reflect on how we can make a difference where we are, with what we have.
We may have only one voice, but when used with intention, ours can be one of many to evoke real reform. Voting, calling local officials, writing letters, signing petitions, and elevating the voices of others take about as much time as a late-night scroll through social media. Conquering any mountain always starts with one, little step.