Taking a Breath

Whenever someone asks me how I’m feeling, I have to stop and consider the question. Physically, I feel fabulous. My health Is tip-top. My numbers, as they say, are excellent.

But I’m exhausted by this long trek in the desert of Covid. I’m missing the loving connections of hugs. I’m aching over the tragic murder of George Floyd. I’m raging over the systemic racism that has allowed people of color to be so continuously undervalued by every conceivable measure. I’m measuring all the ways I have not done even nearly enough to ameliorate the wreckage of racism in America, which makes me feel guilty and complicit. How am I? My soul is tired.

How are you?

I sense most of you feel the way I do. Stop the world, I want to get off. It’s too much to take. The sadness is deep. The problems appear too vast to tackle.

Sometimes its like a bruise you just keep bumping, or a place on your lip you just keep biting. It hurts! It’s aggravating. And it seems so random.

And so I feel defeated and overwhelmed. By the sheer intensity of evil and what seems like the sheer weight of history. It’s that metaphor so often used, of how hard it is to change the direction of a ship. It’s so hard and so complicated…

I fully intended to use this week’s Before Shabbat to announce, as I usually do around this time, that I was beginning my summer writing hiatus. I figured I’d pick up Before Shabbat again in September. After all, I wanted to say, I need to take a bit of a break. I planned to say that I needed some room to just sit back and breathe.

You picked it up too, right? The word, ‘breathe’. I have the room, the privilege to take a breath. But George Floyd did not. All he wanted was to breathe — and he was prevented from doing so. His breath his neshama, which is the same word as soul, was robbed from him. In broad daylight. By an agent of the state.

So now is not the time to sit back and take a breath to massage my sore soul. Let my breath be for speaking words of compassion for my fellow citizens of color. Let my next breath be for speaking out against intolerance and injustice. Let my next breath be an admission that I can do more in the name of justice.

So no breaks just yet. There’s too much to be done.

This Sunday we are honored to be joined by Darnell Williams, the former head of the Urban League of Boston, and Keith McDermott, the former head of he Reggie Lewis Center. Both of these men have made profound contributions to the lives of Black and Brown citizens of Boston. I anticipate listening to their stories, learning their stories, and being challenged to do the right thing.

Eldridge Cleaver once wrote, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

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