The Power of Words & Love

Touched by an Angel
 
We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.
   
Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls
   
We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love’s light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free

-Maya Angelou

Words have power.  What we write has power.  I am a very small voice in the screaming crowd of the internet.  Still, I believe even the quietest voice must speak if we want real change.   Today, I’m going to talk about something that is a ‘delicate’ subject, that can be offensive to many,  but a very important subject, love. 

I know what you’re thinking, “How can talking about love be offensive?”  

Let me start with some of the first words I remember writing.  Words that got me in trouble.   When I was about eight years old,  I did what most girls that age do when they get ‘crushes’ on their schoolmates, I drew pretty red hearts and wrote, “I love Josh.”  Such an innocent thing.  Just a little girl with a ‘check yes or no’ crush.  Three small words.  Such an insignificant moment which turned into a world changing event.  

You see, someone saw those words, and without intending to, introduced me to the concept of racism.  Josh is a person of color.  Until that moment, I never thought about the differences of our skin colors.  All I saw was a boy that I liked to play connect four with at recess. I don’t remember the exact words, but what I heard with my young child’s ears was this:  It wasn’t okay to ‘like’ Josh, it would be difficult, the world would make it hard on us, grown ups would make it hard on us.  So I cried, because I was suppose to stop liking Josh, and I really didn’t understand why.  What did it matter that Josh’s skin is darker than mine? I know the person who told me these things didn’t mean for those words to affect me that way, but they did all the same.  Words have power. 

No one is born racist.  Racism is taught.  I kept thinking it wasn’t right.  I could like josh if I wanted.  No one could make me not.  But, I kept my crush secret.  I was afraid to write it again or say it out loud.  A third grader shouldn’t live in fear of what others think. No one should live in fear of what others think.  It was a long time before I stopped being afraid to write what I want, like who I want, love who I want.  Somewhere along the way of growing up I found my voice. I found my words.  

I grew up in Appalachia and while there are many wonderful things about the mountains, isolation often breeds closed minds.  Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderfully open minded people in the hollows.  I am blessed to be one of those people, with an open mind and heart.  I dreamed of the world beyond these mountains, of wonderful cultures with amazing people.  Yet, there are still so many people who believe ‘equality’ is a four letter word, hate.

So, I loved.  In defiance, I loved.  Regardless of what anyone else thought or thinks, I love.  

That’s the solution.  Both simple and hard.  Love.  

That’s what it’s going to take to save our country, our world. 

I see the looks of hate when I’m out with my biracial children.  I see the looks of hate some people give my black husband and I when we hold hands at a restaurant.  

Only four years ago, the first time I took my husband to the town I was raised in, we went to this little restaurant where I grew up eating. We were ordering food to go. It had been a very stressful day, and I was in tears over an unrelated matter. While we waited for our food, my husband, then boyfriend, put his hand on my shoulder to comfort me. There were two Caucasian men there waiting for food as well, and when my husband put his hand on my shoulder, they muttered a vulgar racist comment and acted very aggressively. Luckily, nothing happened. We got our food and left.

I don’t hate racist people.  To hate them would achieve nothing.  I am not naive.   It’s most likely those people will go their whole life hating.  But, I refuse to be them.  I refuse to live my life hating. And maybe, just maybe, someday people will  read our words, see our hearts, our actions of sincerity, and learn to love.  I see the evidence of hope everyday, in the wonderful people who don’t see color, who teach their children to respect each other, to help each other, to love each other, regardless of race or gender. Love is the answer to most of the world’s problems. As a writer, I want to do my part to spread the message of love.

When we were engaged, my husband found a post it note, that at 33 years old, I doodled the words “I love Nathan,” complete with red ink hearts.  He thought it was a very sweet thing.  Yet, that post-it note represents a free mind and heart, who isn’t afraid of writing her heart.  To me, now, looking back at that little eight year old girl I was, I wish I could tell her it’s okay to write it, sing it, shout it . . . I love.  

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