By Lindsey Peterson —
People, women especially, gathered Jan. 21 to march. We held signs that said women’s rights are human rights, and no human is illegal, and build friendships not walls.
We moved our bodies along the trails for the march, the path, chanting, “The people united will never be defeated.” We leaned on our friends’ shoulders when we were tired emotionally, physically. Friends packed us survival swag – goodie bags of nuts and dried fruit, tissues, hand sanitizer, a graham cracker.
In Boston, we sang songs on the T: “Let your little light shine, shine shine…” We cheered when leaders speaking at microphones put their passion and fire and life force into words that you knew they meant, words like, “We will not stop fighting/America does not need to become great again, America is great/our diversity make us strong, makes us America/equal rights are equal rights/ we will not stop/our bodies, the earth, one another…”
On Jan. 21, hundreds of thousands of people — that’s a tremendous number — gathered with our bodies and our aches and pains and our songs and weakness. We gathered with our signs and differences, the causes we are passionate about already and the things we do not yet see and need to learn, and we held hands. We smushed into one another, so close, closer than we ever are on a normal day, closer than we are to strangers usually ever.
The reverend who opened us with some words at the beginning asked us to look into the eyes of a stranger near us, and, without words, communicate to them, “I see you, I care for you, I am with you.” And what happens after and during a day like Jan. 21 is that you start realizing that it’s true — we are connected, and we can really see one another, and we do care for the stranger and we are really with one another. These are incredible things to realize.
Thing is and this is not something I can understand. But it is so that these things — the reality of a connection between us all, the reality of a love that passes all understanding but which is in our tender care, the reality of our need of one another — when they are spoken of, when people claim the power of our lives and our voices to demand that policies of labor, health care, immigration, economics — the landscape of our daily lives — are shaped in such a way that most of all reflects this deep care for and need of one another — when we do that, people get mad. Some people who have power that is based not in love but in fear, they perceive our deeper down wisdom as scary. They try to quiet the beautiful noise we are making. They try to hush or disappear the public and the economic, legal, health policies we are working to enact and enforce which will help us to care for one another.
On Jan. 21, hundreds of thousands of marched. It was a big, beautiful, bold day. We exercised muscles of voice, body, and community that for many of us had grown a bit weak.
What’s really, really tricky though now, what’s really, really important though now, is that we decide to keep showing up for the workout. Tomorrow we have to show up and march again. What I mean by that is that tomorrow we have to wake up and choose to see the stranger in our midst, to realize not only that we care for them, that we are one with them, we are with them.
We have to wake up and choose to put our voices, bodies, breath, time, energy, intelligence, innocence, curiosity, awe, wonder, love — all that big power — into the service of speaking and living what we know. What we know is that another kind of world is possible; the kind of world in which radical love is the root of all things. When we march we realize that radical love, while the most powerful force for life, grows based on our willingness to exercise it. Daily. And multiple times within each day.
Community is not an easy thing. It is not an already figured out thing. It is not just being nice. Friendship is not an easy thing. It is not an already figured out thing. It is not just being nice. Love is not an easy thing. It is not an already figured out thing. It is not just being nice.
And, and, and … We are made for the struggle for community. We thrive in the struggle of friendship. We flourish in the courage of love.
Lindsey Peterson, of Northampton, is transitional director of Children’s Church at Haydenville Congregational Church. She is creator of “The None & Some Project,” a podcast about people’s religious and spiritual lives. Thios piece appeared Feb. 1 in the Daily Hampshire Gazette.