Do I have legitimacy in that space?

Hello Family and Friends,

Be like water- fluid, reflective, and always tending towards stillness.

Water is a glorious thing. The beauty of oceans, rivers, and lakes serve as source of relaxation, fun, and inspiration. Water has the power to nurture plants and animals, destroy the terrain, and it covers most of the planet. Water is vital for everyday life but is deleterious if it fills someone’s lungs. Depending on the context, water may or may not be beneficial for every space. A farmer in the middle of a drought would want a downpour on her crops. But, she might not like it it turns into a storm.

Just like water, we flow in and out of different people’s lives, peculiar places, and dynamic contexts. Last month I went to this training for community violence prevention. The organization that held the training also runs a program for mentoring young men who have been (or are trying to get out of) gangs. The program trainers were hoping that some of us would be part of this organization and become mentors for the young men.

Now, many of the people in the room were:

  • Not male,
  • Not black,
  • Never have been part of a gang,
  • Have never been about that life,
  • Don’t even know what being “about that life” means,
  • Aren’t from the same neighborhoods that the mentees are from, and,
  • Concerned that their age difference prevents them from relating to the things that the youth are experiencing.

A participant expressed that she felt like she may not be the right person to mentor the young men. She honestly asked, “Do I have legitimacy in that space?”

This month’s letter is to challenge you to think about the legitimacy you bring different spaces.

Your work place/ school/ church/ community: What communities do you belong to and how do you commit to your community? A symbiotic relationship should exist as your space pours energy into you, and in return, you enrich your community. I’m not saying it should feel like rainbows and butterflies every day, but it should make you feel satieted most of the time. If it doesn’t you should re-evaluate why you are there.

As a random stranger: Sometimes I cross paths with random strangers and it really makes my day. The other day I was at the local community college wrapping things up. Then I saw the bus coming from around the corner. RRRRRRUUUUUUNNNNNN!!! Yep, that is how I ran. I hate missing the bus when there is an opportunity to catch it- even if the next one is right behind it. Any ways, as I was just about to slow down, then this random girl started cheering me on and held the bus. And yes, I caught the bus. It wasn’t the biggest deal, but it mattered. She made a legitimate, albeit fleeting, connection.

Your family: I’m going to leave this one alone. Loving imperfect people is something else.

Your friendships: Are your friendships legitimate friendships or really cool acquaintances? Can you seriously disagree and move forward. Can you cry in front of them?Can they cry in front of you? Have they been to your home?  Are they like half of my friends who text me “what’s wrong” when I call them on their birthday?

Your partner: Do they reflect the things you legitamitly value or do they fit an idea of what a partner should look/ be like. Sometimes when they fit a certain type we pretend that (or we really hope that) in their imperfectness is the true reflection of good character. Maybe they are a good person, but are they the right person for you? Are you right for them? Sometimes there isa mix-up between who we want to be with and who we need in our lives. If it isn’t working, re-assess the legitamacy of the situation.

Your home: Do you feel at home? Yes? No? Maybe so? Does your space reflect you? Are you safe? Are you comfortable? Is this permanent or temporary? Are you tethered to it? Is it a place of rest? This time last year I accepted a temporary roommate to move in. Her (adverse) presence made me really think about what my home space means to me: Who is welcomed (and who is not and to what extent); what I freely share (and the stuff that I do not); and, what and who truly make a home a home. “Home” is such a weird word.

Yourself: One of my favorite quotes is that, “People don’t change, they just simply become more of themselves”. For this particular season in my life, growing through this journey has been a series of negotiating different boundaries. What was not o.k. for me a few years ago might have a place in my life now (and vice versa). People around me change (or re-define our relationship) and different types of opportunities present themselves. I’m constantly adjusting the lines to make sure that I stay relatively whole, well and happy.

Your relationship with God: Not everyone reading this practices Christian disciplines (even some of the Christians reading this), but I think it is imperative to not only make space for spiritual wellbeing every so often, but to also make prayer and worship and all the other spiritual practices that keep you balanced as a legitimate part of who you are everyday. We are all spiritual beings. It’s the humanity in you and I that keeps ups pointing to a true north. My challenge to you (and myself) is to not neglect the opportunity to pursue a deep and meaningful spiritual journey .

This letter is getting long so I’m going to awkwardly end the letter right…now!