While suiting up in the locker room today I was audience to an impassioned conversation. It was between a mother and daughter. Maybe fifty-something and nineteen years of age. They were going at it.
The mom was profoundly upset. It seems the friend of her daughter had made a comment about hating people of another race. The mom was painting the ways that hate talk and hate actions are one in the same. Didn’t her daughter know that to be true?
No, she did not. The daughter was irritated and then some at her mother’s raw insistence that hatred based on racial prejudice is a slippery and inevitably violent slope. She cussed plenty and was frustrated and annoyed plenty and tried to explain to her wrought mother that it was no big deal, her friend’s avowed hatred of people writ large because of their skin tone.
I was cheering for them, even as I thought about poking my head around the corner to let them know that there were ears about not capable of stopping themselves.
I was cheering for the mom because she is me and the so many of us who have seen the ugly reality of fear and hatred unleashed upon the tenderness of fellow humans as we sort the realities and woundings of racism. I was cheering for her and I was wincing on her behalf because her conviction became cudgel and she was none too deft at using her passion artfully to make her point.
I was cheering for the daughter. Not because I shared her conviction that hate speech means nothing. I’m in the mom’s camp on that one. But I cheered for the daughter because she was willing to stretch her mom and engage her fully and because they were talking about something important and she was willing to do that.
Talking. About hard things and about things that we disagree about. It’s the only way we are going to learn from each other and see the world in colors we never before knew.
They left the locker room, both undoubtedly nursing the comments they didn’t share and the conviction of the other’s folly. But they left the locker room to go work out together. And maybe as they were sweating, they gave thanks for the gift of sparring partners willing to engage over the real and challenge that is living.