Two years ago at a youth event, I led a workshop on healthy relationships. There were a handful of adult leaders and 35 youth in the group. Things went well – we had good conversations as we talked about shared power, mutual respect, etc. As I was about to leave the room, one of the adult participants thanked me and slipped me a hand-written note.
A short-time later, I read the following story written by a woman to a past abuser:
I’ve always thought I lived out of the box. I lived, thought and talked out of the box. That was until I met you. It started out the same. I was myself, sounded like myself and thought my own thoughts. As time went by, that changed. It was slow like the earth turning on its axis.
I slowly started to step into the box. First one foot, then the other, by the ‘loving’ names you called me. I kneeled in the box the first time your touch became hurtful. I bowed my head when you told me I couldn’t see my friends and how long I could talk with my family. But the top of the box was nailed on by your words that no one else would or could love me, that I was unworthy.
So now I’m in the box, the dark, quiet, stuffy box. I hope someone saw me get in. Katie, July 8, 2010
I found Katie. She was okay and told me that friends had seen her being put into the box of fear and abuse and helped remove her. As I reflect upon our current political climate, I see boxes being erected in neighborhoods, cities, states and Washington, DC. People and institutions that seek to gain or control power are the designers of the boxes. Are you able to see any in your communities?
There is a movement to dismantle the common good and ‘pit’ groups of people against each other. Creating a climate of fear by objectifying the ‘other’ is one such way to gain control. Yet, who actually benefits when phony ‘mommy wars,’ distrust of people who profess a faith unlike mine, or suspicion of those who look differently are created?
This tactic of fear-building often leads to violence. On August 5, a terrorist invaded the Sikh temple in Wisconsin and assassinated six people. I readily admit I knew little about Sikhism. Since then, I’ve learned that the three main principles of Sikhism are like my own beliefs. The Sikh faith has a history of embracing others. It teaches devotion to God at all times and is committed to social justice and equality.
Recently, I visited with a Sikh community in the Cleveland area and attended a worship service. With 700 peace-loving people, I donned a scarf and took off my shoes. For an hour and a half I sat on the floor of the sanctuary and was blest by the ‘other.’ I found the experience enriching.
We each have an opportunity to step out of “stuffy boxes” that confine our worldview with fear and an illusion of separation. Where are the rest of my boxes? Perhaps time and opportunity will reveal them. I hope you too are willing and open to ask yourself, where and what are your boxes?
The United Church of Christ has 5,194 churches throughout the United States. Rooted in the Christian traditions of congregational governance and covenantal relationships, each UCC setting speaks only for itself and not on behalf of every UCC congregation. UCC members and churches are free to differ on important social issues, even as the UCC remains principally committed to unity in the midst of our diversity.