I first experienced the Air Force Academy graduation “March On” in 2013. I was there for the graduation and commissioning of my cousin, Wes Cobb, and I still remember that moment of giddiness during the ceremony when I realized the graduates were going to MARCH TO THEIR SEATS!
Yesterday, as I watched the 2017 Academy graduation, saw the precision execution of the “March On”, listened to the call for excellence, I thought about Army 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins. Killed before he could serve his country, lynched, according to some, for being black, Collins is another victim of the violence perpetuated on people of color in American.
And I wondered how the almost 300 officers of color commissioned feel about their oath to “support and defend” a country which doesn’t always provide a safe space for them…
This weekend another young black male died violently, this time on a college campus, allegedly stabbed by a white male member of a hate group. This newly commissioned Army officer, on the precipice of a “limitless life” had sworn to “support and defend the Constitution” of his country…this America where he is hated and hunted because of the color of his skin.
And I grieve for what has been lost, for his family, his classmates and his fellow Americans who understand that America is great because of people like Richard W. Collins III.
“As a United States Army Officer who gladly puts his life on the line everyday…there’s no greater conflict within me. How do I feel about my country? And how does my country…feel about me? Are we only to be Americans when the mood suits you?”
Lawrence Fishborne as Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin O. Davis in the movie, Tuskegee Airman
I’ve been writing a lot about the struggles we face on the way to being who we are purposed to be…those experiences we experienced as negative when they happened that turned our lives around; the choices we made that taught us what wouldn’t work; the tremendous effort expended that didn’t turn out as expected but showed us what we were capable of.
Yet as parents, we often try to shield our children from these very experiences, which enable their development…to their and our detriment…
“Children learn to navigate risks—not through discussions or TV shows—but by actually taking risks.” ~ Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders.
The reaction to a test is often to retreat. The business we built fails so we determine we’re not cut out for entrepreneurship. The competition won the contest so we stop training. The relationship implodes so we vow to never, EVAH, as long as we’re black to be in another relationship … oh wait…that was me!
The key to not getting stuck in the story is to realize the lesson, appreciate the knowledge gained and be intentional about not choosing that particular path again. And ask for Divine help…’cause there will be another test…
“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.” ~ 1 Peter 1: 7 NLT
When I think of some of the people I most admire, people who are applying their passion to a solving a problem in the world, it’s usually not just because of the amazing work they are doing. Or even their demonstrated courage to step out and live their dreams.
I admire the people I admire often because they’ve overcome obstacles to achieve their dreams. Some have overcome low expectations, some have escaped the prison of poverty, and others have survived near death experiences…and their experiences seem to have made them stronger, resilient…fearless.
“Out of massive suffering emerged the strongest souls; the most massive character are seared with scars.” ~ Khalil Gibran
In my early 30s, I experienced some major disruptions in my life. I left an abusive marriage and took my toddler out of the country to a new assignment in England, courtesy of Uncle Sam. And then DESERT STORM happened.
At first it, was difficult to get my footing. I had to find a place on the economy that wasn’t looking for a man to guarantee the rent. I beat myself up for thinking my daughter would easily transition to a big-girl bed. Why didn’t I bring the crib? I worried about deploying; should I send my 3-year-old to the States? I wondered if I could juggle all the demands…
But we survived. In fact, we didn’t just survive, we thrived! And I learned some things about myself…
“If I have to, I can do anything I am strong I am invincible I am woman…” Helen Reddy, I Am Woman
“Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” ~ Philippians 4:13, MSG
“When I was 5 and playing against 11-year-olds, who were bigger, stronger, faster, I just had to figure out a way to play with them.” ~ Wayne Gretzky.
I discovered resistance training while in college. My roommate and I would squeeze into the cramped, sweaty, unorganized space that passed for a gym in the early 80s…a far cry from the sprawling Student Recreation Center current University of Alabama students enjoy.
I became fascinated (some might say obsessed) by the way the resistance training shaped my muscles. I learned how the stress of lifting weights actually created little tears in my muscle fibers, which fused together to create muscle growth. Lifting also made my bones denser and less likely to break as I got older, increased blood flow, which reduces blood pressure…just made my body stronger and more efficient.
I realized that the long-term benefits far outweighed the temporary discomfort.
“Strength and growth come only through continuous effort and struggle.” ~ Napoleon Hill
At church this weekend, it was all about seeds and growing, reaping and sowing. Even during story hour for the young and young at heart, the pastor shared a fable about seeds that face obstacles to their growth.
In the story, some of the seeds decide to postpone any attempts to grow until the obstacles disappear (they don’t). But one determined seed decides to face possible destruction and fulfill its purpose to become a palm tree with an extraordinarily strong trunk.
“What do you think happened?” the pastor asked the assembled 6, 7 and 8-year olds.
And one brave young soul answered correctly, “The obstacles made the tree grow stronger.”
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche.
We often tie forgiveness and reconciliation together. But forgiveness and reconciliation are separate processes. Forgiveness is something each of us can do on our own. Reconciliation requires the participation of another person or entity.
True reconciliation cannot happen without forgiveness. But we can forgive and consciously determine reconciliation is not possible…
“True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgment of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know.” ~ Desmond Tutu
One of my favorite shows is OWN’s “Greenleaf” which follows the deeds and misdeeds of a family leading a mega-church in the south.
The midseason cliffhanger saw the primary character in a life and death struggle with the show’s primary villain. Her inability to forgive led her to interpret her antagonist’s actions incorrectly, which led to heightened emotions (in this case panic), which led to actions that may lead to results contrary to what she wants.
She has looked for peace in his punishment, but peace can only come through forgiveness…
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Matthew 18: 21-22, MSG