Words to Build a Life On:
You Did It to Me.
Sometimes, Sermons contain a lot of what might be called confessional.
I was never very good at skits, or role play, or any of that sort of thing.
Its mainly the acting. Hard to do with a straight face, or with the right emotion.
I don’t do well with pretending to be in some other situation.
We tried, as kids, to do this.
At my house, our friends would put together these really awful little plays
And we’d film them on my Dad’s VHS camcorder
Those bulky things that hurt your shoulder to use.
The skits were awful.
I really hope those tapes are lost.
I don’t remember them very well at all…
Probably best to put them out of memory.
I learned, a long time ago, this was not particularly what I was good at.
Some of you in this room are quite skilled at it, I know.
Some of you have even been on stage, a real stage,
Before a crowd. I admire that.
You might think that a preacher would be all over this
But, truth be told, I’m not.
Not my sort of thing.
My wife’s family, when we get together for the rare family reunion
They often plan for a skit night.
Its one idea of entertainment, I suppose.
We have a family reunion scheduled for next summer
And I think that some family members are already working on plot outlines
Buying props and handing out parts.
I’ll be lucky if my role is something like taxi driver
Or food delivery guy, where I can have a quick appearance
And then high tail it out of there….
Since Brook will be writing our skit,
I might start lobbying on my behalf this month.
Some people can do this better than others
Certainly better than I
And that’s all right.
Good to make note of your strengths and weaknesses.
I thought about all of this on Monday this week
As we hosted our final Social Witness Roundtable of the Summer.
This week we were talking about bystander intervention
How we might diffuse tense situations
That are filled with hard talk
Anger, and hatred, and prejudice, and racism
And, in particular,
How to help people who are experiencing harassment.
These are just things most of us are not
equipped to handle on our own.
So we invited a few people who have thought a lot about the practice of peacemaking
And they were here to share with us useful tips and techniques:
–Make eye contact with the person
–Take your cue from the person being harassed
–Focus on keeping both of you safe
–Don’t escalate the situation, but don’t just do nothing…things like that.
That’s not what had me thinking about acting.
There’s nothing false or pretend about any of this, unfortunately.
Whether it was a family member telling racist jokes
Or coming across a tense situation in a public place like a restaurant or airport
Those might feel like a real-life “good Samaritan moment”
Where you’re tempted to cross the road, to look away,
But you know that maybe you can do something…
We learned techniques for what might help, and what might not:
–Try to not get defensive, or react emotionally yourself.
–If you can, mirror back the feelings and the things being said to you
In a way that lets them know
that you’re actually listening to what they are saying
Because, you know, often feeling heard
is enough to start calming someone down
–Don’t match the level of intensity being brought at you
But express your feelings
–Don’t express judgment or blame or criticism in that moment
–Keep your mind on the goal of de-escalation and keeping the harassed safe.
These are all really good tips for everyday life
But particularly good in these tense situations.
To see how they might actually work
The instructors then had us go out into the lobby
Where the fifty or so of us
Formed two lines
And we paired up, looking at each other
One of us assigned the role of the instigator,
the seething, wrathful, angry instigator
And the other person took the role of the active bystander
Maybe a family member, maybe a stranger
But someone who has chosen to engage this person.
Good practice, and honestly the most important part of the whole class
But not easy.
Particularly if Role Play doesn’t come very naturally to you.
We did it twice:
First, I was the instigator
And then I was the bystander
And I tried my best to adopt an angry tone
Arguing about black-on-black crime
And then tried out these techniques
When talking-down someone who insisted
“That All Muslims are Terrorists.”
And suddenly I was glad that my family reunions
Aren’t at all like any of this.
Truth be told: I said a little prayer of gratitude
That my family reunions aren’t like any of this
Though I know that I’m lucky, in that regard.
Many people at the gathering Monday
Shared stories about how their families
Have plenty of angry voices around the table.
And that they’ll be using these techniques to carefully, faithfully engage them
With the aim of de-escalating tension, and helping those who are hurting.
It makes me sad and, honestly, a little angry
That we have to practice things like this [Read more…]