I was heading to the parking lot. After a long walk at a park, I was right on schedule to run an errand and return home.
However, someone caught my eye, and I did a double take. Although, it was not unusual for people to sit in their cars at the park, something seemed off.
I pondered, “Did she just choke up? Is she crying?” I had spotted a White woman sitting in her car with window down and hand on her forehead, looking up and out into the distance.
I observed more carefully. I could tell that she was crying. In a matter of seconds, an internal debate started:
“Giiiiirrrrrlllll, you ain’t got time for any of that. How do you know she won’t call the cops on you? She might call the police because she was frightened that a Black woman walked up to her car. You know some of these White folks stay racially paranoid.”
“That’s true. If she says that she felt unsafe or threatened, then I am in a #ParkingLotPatty situation. Heck, what if she turns out to be off her rocker or high and harms me. I don’t know her from Adam or Eve. Let me mind my business. Besides, if some of these White folks weren’t actin’ a plum fool by calling the police on Black people walking, studying, breathing, swimming, sitting, and existing, I would have less concern about going over there.”
“You said, ‘some White folks.’ Are you going to let the actions of ‘some’ keep you from one?”
“Yes. Today, yes. Pretty much.”
“Don’t act like you have not cried in your car. What if she really needs help? What if she is at the end of her rope?”
“Whelp, here is her chance to cry for Jesus to come take the wheel. She is literally sitting in a car. Prime opportunity for Jesus to take it from her hands.”
“Jesus ain’t here. You are.”
“Well, dang. Screw it. I’m going in.”
I took a deep breath and decided to approach the woman’s vehicle. How do Black people approach in a non-threatening manner?
Even the police carry such irrational racial fear that “I feared for my safety” has become the standard justification for killing unarmed Black people. And this is the supposed best from various professionals who are trained to protect and serve communities.
Last week was my 40th week without the Bible. (The 12 week countdown to my year of quitting the Lord’s book is on.) I did not want to finish my year writing from a jail cell.
I decided to walk slowly, but not too slowly. I maintained a calm presence-not too calm. I checked my vibe: Friendly energy. I reminded myself to focus on friendly energy.
I tried to be myself as much as possible.
The aforementioned internal dialogue and walk transpired within a couple of minutes.
Once I reached approximately 6 feet away, I gently called out, waiving my hand, “Excuse me! Excuse me! Are you okay?”
The woman looked over, realizing I was attempting to get her attention. “I’m sad,” she responded, as tears welled up in her eyes. Then, she shook her head, adding, “I’m okay. I’m fine.”
I approached closer and continued, “You don’t seem okay. What’s going on?”
The woman answered, “You don’t have to bother. It’s okay. ”
I thought, “You have no idea.” I said aloud, “I know I don’t have to. What’s going on?”
As she described the hell of a day and season she had been experiencing, the tears flowed.
The more I listened, the more I empathized with her. Yeah, I would cry in my car at the park, too.
Then, she began to judge herself for crying. How many of us have done the same thing? I know I have.
She began to condemn herself for her feelings because she felt that she had “other things to be grateful for.”
I sensed that she felt embarrassed and negative self-talk began to take root.
Although I live and rep for Team Gratitude, alarm bells went off in my head, and I went into spiritual warrior mode.
“Oh, no. Not today,” I thought, “We are going to get free up in here.” I pushed back at her comments.
I informed her that even with her gratitude, it was human, acceptable, and absolutely wonderful to allow herself to feel. Also, it was better to allow the cleansing tears to flow than to stuff down her emotions.
She shared more about her situation, and I kept listening. I reassured and encouraged her at different points, asking questions at others.
I could sense the embarrassment and self-judgment leaving the conversation.
“If you go home and cry, it’s okay,” I stated. “If you go two weeks of feeling great and you have one of these days, it is okay. If you go months from now or years and, still, cry—all of it is okay.”
The largest teary smile appeared on her face. She began to recall something a teacher once shared with her, as she agreed about allowing herself to be human.
I realized we did not even know each other’s names. We shared amusement that we had a close exchange before introducing ourselves.
Evelyn got out of her car. She requested a hug. I am a hugger so I was happy to oblige.
We hugged and talked about our plans for the rest of the day. As Ohioans, we discussed the seemingly mandatory conversation topic of the weather. We talked about our love of walking outdoors. We chatted about life. We hugged at least three more times.
As I close, I shall share with you something that I shared with Evelyn:
All of us are connected. We are a human family. Over the course of our lives, we learn how to be disconnected from each other.
Part of our human journey involves unlearning and navigating the ways we have been taught to disconnect. Another part involves remembering who we are.
In order to remember, we must face and comes to terms with all of the social messages we have assimilated into our consciousness that we unknowingly live out each day. The lack of knowledge that influences us to disconnect across race, gender, class, or religious can compel us to connect for the same reason.
Oh, and crying in your car-crying in private or public is a sign of being human. Instead of forcing each other to perform a strength that only weakens us emotionally and spiritually, what if we encouraged each other to be in our humanity?
Access to (Link opens in new window) Audio Version of This Post
Currently, I am exploring tools to use to help make Race and Grace more accessible through audio content. In the meantime, I have voice recorded this post.