“Dad, what are your thoughts about the George Floyd situation and all the chaos?” This was the question my 15 year old son asked me at lunch yesterday. I immediately realized in all my reading, watching, and evaluating the situation I never actually talked about it with my two teenage boys. What follows is simply a summary of my conversation with them.
1. “You are not color blind.”
I know this is controversial. I have many friends who say they don’t see people based upon their race. I think most people who state this do so to demonstrate they are not prejudiced. I admire that and believe that most of them are not. However, stating that I am “color blind” prevents me from truly recognizing reality.
For example, my oldest son is recovering from ACL surgery. A few times a week he goes for runs in our neighborhood as part of his physical therapy. As he departs for each run, I never worry that his life may be in danger because of his skin color or because he is simply running. Unfortunately I have friends in a very similar situation that don’t have a similar peace of mind. They adopted their son from Africa at an early age and he is now a typical thriving American teenager. Last year he had a significant knee injury as well. The conversations his parents have with him (and the precautions they have to put in place) before he goes for a run in the neighborhood are much different than our family. To say I am “color blind” – although well meaning – ignores this situation and the circumstances my friends live in each day.
To my sons, it’s important to understand that the goal is not to be color-blind. The goal is to actually see and recognize skin color just as I would your socio-economic situation, your religion, or your gender. Each of us is different and by saying that one of the most obvious and conspicuous characteristics about a person is something you ignore or can’t see is dismissive and trivializing.
I recall the chorus to a song we often sang at church when I was a young kid, “Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” We can see differences and celebrate them.
2. “You will never regret doing the right thing, but you will always regret not doing what is right.”
As I shared the video with my teenage sons I wanted my boys to specifically see the other police officers in the video…those who had the opportunity to do what was right and did not do so. Each of these trained officers had the ability to deescalate the situation. They had the opportunity based upon their training and their oath to correct the matter. They choose not to. They failed to do what was right.
I shared stories and situations from my career in the Marine Corps that highlighted the power of one man or woman standing up to do the right thing.
I reminded them that on all levels of life, when given the chance to do the right thing – DO IT! Will it be hard? Yes. Might it cost friendships and relationships? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
3. “Be the example.”
My oldest son has talked often about wanting to be a detective or join the FBI. He has researched what each career path takes and has discussed schools and training that could help him reach his goals. Yesterday he told me he no longer wants to pursue that career. “Dad, everyone hates cops. I don’t want to do that.” My heart hurt for him. I was sad that his previous heart for service was changed because of the action and reaction of others. I told him I certainly understood his thoughts and feelings. But I reminded him (and in reality all of us) if good men and women stand down and no longer protect and serve because of the hardship or costs, evil will certainly triumph.
To my boys, follow your dreams. Be a cop, teacher, fireman, businessman, pastor, actor, friend, husband, father or hundreds of other roles you can carry. But most importantly, be the example that others point to. Be the cop that others point to as an example of “protect and serve.” Be the father who blesses and loves. Be the husband that cherishes and honors his wife. Be the friend who listens and prays. I could go on and on but perhaps William Thayer said it best, “Live your life, so that if anyone speaks evil of you, no one believes him.” Be the example.
4. “Share the Gospel.”
The world is broken. It has been that way since Genesis Chapter 3. The answer to our brokenness has been and will continue to be the Gospel. Now is the time to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the true and only hope for reconciliation with God (2 Cor. 5:18-21) and reconciliation with one another (Eph. 2:14-16). We have a great opportunity to live out the truth of the Gospel in life and relationships and in doing so show compassion and love for our neighbors.
To my boys, many things divide us in this country. But the Gospel can be a signpost for what it means for people to be united not by the blood of our ancestors but by the blood of our Savior.