Unity in Diversity

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. We don’t have cable and my wireless has basically puttered out. My days are spent in bed or on the couch or at the hospital or doctor’s office or occasionally accompanying Greg to get Evan from school.  This means I haven’t kept up on my current events (shame on me) and hadn’t heard about Baltimore in as timely a manner as I usually would have; however, I did find out about the riots just before going to bed. This didn’t bode well.

You see, there’s this burning rage in our country about race relations. We’ve come a long way, but not far enough. And as the wife of a bi-racial man and mother of children who will always have to check the “Black” or “African-American” box when there’s only one choice, I can’t just sit back and ignore what an impact this has on my life. So I snuggled my baby girls and prayed for our country and the families impacted by the events of late.

Then today, Evan asked me to look at a tulip. “Yuck, there’s black inside!” he told me as we looked at it. To a four-year-old, this isn’t about color of skin or anything deeper than the simple fear that one of his beloved yard art flowers might be dirty inside, its yellow color tinged by a dirty blackness.

But to me? To me it’s more. “Yuck, there’s black inside” has been said in ignorant ways to my family, to my parents, to Greg’s parents, about our love and lives. It’s being said about other free citizens of this beautiful country we live in. No, Evan doesn’t get it nor associate that darkness in the tulip as anything more than possible wilting come early, but he sure sparked something inside of me, something brought in words of beauty from my mother-in-law about the tulip. Unity in diversity! 

That tulip signifies a whole lot more to me than it just being a tulip. Something beautiful. Something amazing. “How beautiful, there’s black inside!” // “How amazing, that tulip is living and breathing, sharing this free space with me!” // “How awesome, God made that beautiful flower / child!”

So we don’t always have to go so deep…but why not when we can. Why can’t we look at a flower or a person and see beyond the “dirt” inside and see the potential, see the love? Why can’t we see things the way God intended, unity and peace? I’ll be praying again tonight for love and light in Baltimore and for all lives and for my children…that they may see the things our parents taught us as we were raised — to see beyond the dirt and difference. To see that that tulip is just as awesome as all others.

For the Love of Xavier

I was born lucky. He was born lucky. They were born lucky.

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Xavier was born lucky. The day he left the Cabbage Patch and became mine, I realized what my parents meant when they talked about loving regardless. I loved my [black] baby doll with all my heart, no less (and yet no more) than his [white] sister Kimberly. As a kid, it never occurred to me that people would look down on you or love you less because of who you loved. I sang my heart out to “Jesus loves the little children / all the children of the world / red and yellow black and white / they are precious in His sight…”. And I loved my Xavier.

My parents taught me to love regardless…and that they would love me regardless. Regardless of age, gender, color, history, or number of appendages (and a multiple of other “regardlesses”). They did warn me that sometimes life wouldn’t be easy if I chose to love someone that was “different” than I was, but that they would have my back and my heart. I told you I was born lucky.

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While pregnant with ‘lil Miss A, I found Xavier and it reminded me of the comfort I felt knowing I was loved regardless. I couldn’t wait to pass him on to her, and to pass on the love and learning I was given as a child. During those stressful months, I had been seeing a man (who happened to be African American), and I had to turn to Xavier for comfort. People said and did hurtful things. The words of my parents (“it won’t always be easy”) rung loud and clear in my ears. I couldn’t believe that people who grew up in racially diverse schools and fellowshipped each Sunday could be so mean and ill. I looked at my group of friends and realized how diverse and beautiful we were. I would look at Xavier sitting on A’s rocking chair and think about how I hoped I really could raise her better.

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Things didn’t change much when I started to see Mr. Burgher. When we would go out to our old “haunts” together as a couple, we got looked at quite differently than we had as a pair of friends. There were awkward stares, but it could have been worse. We were born lucky, in an age where people still say and do mean things, but we don’t even know the half of how it could be.

One time, we were crossing the street and a car revved its engine and almost hit A and I. Mr. Burgher jumped in the way to protect us and angry, evil words were said. I had to remind myself that my parents told me it wouldn’t always be easy…this was one of those moments.

Even today, people have their words and stares. Yes, we are different. Does that mean you need to call it out? Or is it a joke that I can’t see past? To me, words add up, and I still struggle with that “it won’t always be easy”, but then I take one look into my husband’s deep, loving eyes and know it will all be ok. I do it for the love of Xavier. For the love of Lil Miss A. For the love of Lil Man. For the love of myself.

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Last Christmas, ‘lil Miss A got two baby dolls that were African American. She loves them both to pieces, and no one has ever challenged her for having them. One day, she will be given Xavier, and show him love, too.

She’s living in a house full of love that sees past the “he’s tall and thin, she’s short and chunky”, past the “He is mixed, she is white”, past the “He stays at home, she works”, past all of it. She’s got a little brother who gets to experience all this, too. A little brother who looks like his mom and looks like his dad but yet looks just like ‘Lil Man. They are lucky to have this love that sees past differences.

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“Mr. Burgher, do you know what you are?” asked Miss E.

“No…” wondered Mr. Burgher.

“You are a caramel. That means you have a white mom and a black dad. That’s cool,” she replied.

Miss E, a gorgeous mix of Korean and the Mama Burgher’s Mama’s side of the family, didn’t know how much that meant to me. She didn’t mean it to be mean or hurtful in anyway. Sure, her words if used in a negative manner could have hurt, but because she recognized that Mr. Burgher is different in a good way, it’s ok. For a small child to recognize differences and be able to explain it, means the world. She sees that he is different, but doesn’t love him any differently. She, too, is lucky.

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Occasionally, we still hear words about how we are different. It definitely is not always easy, but it is also something that I don’t want my children to be exposed to. What is the right answer? Is it sitting in silence, being hurt, or speaking your mind? I struggle to find the right balance sometimes.

But most days, I love that I feel my family is unique yet included. We have surrounded ourselves with people who love us, regardless of how we look, talk, pray, or eat. It’s the regardless that makes it all worth it. Knowing that people can see through the outside in. Knowing that your children will know love and know how to love others, regardless. That is how I want to live my life—how about you?

This month is National Diversity Awareness Month. I felt like I needed to pour my heart out and let you see a side of us we don’t talk about often. Words can hurt, even if they are not intentional. I ask that you take a moment and think about who you love, regardless, and how their unique differences bring joy to your life. That, my friend, is diversity in action.