As this week ushers us toward my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I wanted to say to try to help reduce the anxiety, divisiveness, anger and general exhaustion you may be feeling.
It’s been a profoundly difficult year. The need to slow down, count blessings and come together not only as a family around a Thanksgiving meal, but as a nation, is critical.
So, if given a chance, what would I want to say to the Democratic Party, or to the Republicans? What needs to be said to Biden and Harris, or to Trump and Pence?
What would I say to the organizers and protestors who stand with Black Lives Matter, or those who counter that All Lives Matter?
What would I say to people who look, act, and vote differently than I do? How will I respond this Thanksgiving week to those who feel differently than I about important topics?
Perhaps more importantly, what would you say?
Let’s take a page from the book of Julia Jackson.
Two days after her son, Jacob Blake, was shot in the back seven times by a police officer, Julia Jackson had such an “opportunity.”
At a press conference attended by media outlets from across the country and hundreds of emotional protestors, while her son was being treated at an area hospital, paralyzed and in critical condition – she spoke to a nation on edge.
My friends, this is not an essay about what led to the shooting in Kenosha; or the fact that his kids were in the car. This is not an essay about what Jacob Blake was doing at that location or how the police officer could have reacted differently.
No, this is about Ms. Jackson, and the words she chose to speak into a divided country in her time of crisis.
And I believe it’s what needs to be heard clearly by all of us, today.
Ms. Jackson walked determinedly to the microphone. She looked as if she couldn’t quite catch her breath and might be too emotional to speak. For more than 20 seconds, she looked at the massive gathering of television trucks, police officers, protestors, community members and dozens of cameras.
She then whispered, slowly:
“My son has been fighting for his life.”
She paused again, seeking the right words, another 20 seconds pass, before adding,
“And we really just need prayers.”
After keeping vigil with her son, Ms. Jackson hadn’t slept in two days. You could see in this moment, all of the emotions she’d been dealing with – as his mother, a Black woman, a citizen – begin to flow through her and fuel her conviction to make a point that needed to be made.
She looked around at the crowd, then into the cameras, and shared a message Kenosha, WI needed to be reminded of in the midst of an unfolding tragedy. Without any notes, and very clearly from the depth of her heart, she shared passionately this message we need, too:
As I was riding through here, through this city, I noticed a lot of damage that doesn’t reflect my son or my family. If Jacob knew what was going on as far as that goes, the violence and the destruction, he would be very unpleased. So, I’m really asking and encouraging everyone in Wisconsin and abroad to take a moment and examine your hearts.
Citizens, police officers, firemen, clergy, politicians – do Jacob justice on this level and examine your hearts. We need healing. As I pray for my son’s healing physically, emotionally, and spiritually, I also have been praying, even before this, for the healing of our country.
God has placed each and every one of us in this country because he wanted us to be here. Clearly you can see by now that I have beautiful, brown skin. But take a look at your hand. And whatever shade it is, it is beautiful as well.
How dare we hate what we are! We are humans. God did not make one type of tree or flower or fish or horse or grass or rock. How dare you ask him to make one type of human that looks just like you. I’m not talking to just Caucasian people. I am talking to everyone – white, black, Japanese, Chinese, red, brown. No one is superior to the other. The Only Supreme being is God himself.
Please, let’s begin to pray for healing for our nation. We are the United States. Have we been united? Do you understand what’s going to happen when we fall? Because a house that is against each other cannot stand.
To all those police officers, I’m praying for you and your families. To all of the citizens, my black and brown sisters and brothers, I’m praying for you. I believe that you are intelligent beings just like the rest of us, everybody. Let’s use our hearts, our love, and our intelligence to work together to show the rest of the world how humans are supposed to treat each other.
America is great when we behave greatly. Thank you.
[I had the pleasure of interviewing Julia Jackson’s pastor of more than 30 years on our most recent Live Inspired Podcast episode. Pastor James Ward profoundly influenced Ms. Jackson’s life. When you listen, he’ll undoubtedly influence yours, too. Listen here.]
My friends, as we look at a most unusual holiday season approaching, with rising Covid numbers, travel restrictions, forced isolations and awkward socially distant gatherings, many are wondering what we should celebrate.
As Ms. Jackson reminds us, the promise of being united, one, unencumbered, unembarrassed and wholly accepting of our diversity remains a dream worth pursuing.
True greatness will never be realized as the result of a political slogan or a bumper sticker. What makes a country, any country, truly great is the manner in which its citizens treat one another. And nothing speaks to that greatness more than how they treat the most marginalized among them.
From a simple dinner hosted in 1621 celebrated between dramatically different peoples near Plymouth Rock, through the very height of the Civil War in 1863 when Thanksgiving became a national holiday: This week, we pause again. Not to call out what we don’t have, but to recognize the profound blessings of all that we do.
Let’s use this important season to come together and rejoice in our gifts, challenges we’ve endured, lessons we’ve learned, and in the truth that in spite of our many mistakes and differences, that we are indeed better together, we are made for greatness and that the best is yet to come.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving week. Lower your voices. Open your hearts.
Today is your day. Live Inspired.