When I’m feeling lost or confused, I walk. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, I put one foot in front of the other until the rhythm of my feet match the beat of my heart and the pull of gravity calms my whirling mind.
I’ve been feeling confused recently. Confused about how we got to this place… this place where women are up for grabs and black men are being shot by the very people who have should been there to protect them, while the man in charge brags about the size of his hands and the power of his words.
And so I walked. Through the streets of Washington, D.C. I walked… 500,000 of my brothers and sisters by my side.
Through the mall, past the Lincoln Memorial, right to the White House, we walked.
And, as I walked, I looked around me at the people by my side. Women And men. Muslims and Jews. Black people and white. First generation Americans and Native Americans.
Some of them were confused like me. We are the people who’ve had a soft beginning in the world… perhaps it was a mother who was extra loving or meals we could count on or a community that always had our backs. Sure, we’ve had our troubles… but never anything that shook the ground out from under us… that made us mistrust the very essence of man. We, the Confused ones, walked side by side shaking our heads, wringing our hands, calling out to God to explain the unexplainable…how a man who spews venom in childlike outbursts and 140 character tantrums could have been chosen to lead by our friends, our neighbors, our family. Our band of Confused ones turned to each other and shrugged and sighed, leaned on each other as we walked for strength, for support, for confirmation that there are still people we can trust.
Then there were the others. The ones who were walking, not because they were confused, but because they had someplace to go…someplace they’d been trying to get to for years… but never quite arrived at, because of a society determined to push them back.
These Determined people didn’t lean, their eyes didn’t wander. They had a destination to go to, and for the first time in maybe forever, they had an army by their side.
There was one woman, A Determined One, who marched with her two small daughters grasped tightly in her hands. Her back was rigid, her eyes focused on the path.
I spoke to her as we walked. I told her how I admired her conviction, her choice to bring her daughters to walk beside her, the sureness of her step.
She told me that it wasn’t a choice. That her path was theirs as well. That they had somewhere to go, a place where they were more than their gender or the color of their skin or the God that they chose to worship. That the only other choice to walking forward was to stay still and be trampled, and damned if she was going to let them do that.
As she spoke, I saw the direction her eyes were looking, envisioned the place she was walking towards. This place where the voice of little brown girls resonates with the same power as little white boys, where people who worship Allah could be given the same open-hearted welcome as those who give praise to Jesus, where wealth and social status were viewed as simply the clothing we wear over our equally divine souls.
The further we walked together, the more focused my gaze became, the surer my steps. And yet, my confusion remained. These people beside me, this woman, the thousands of others like her, women and men who had been walking with steady steps while the rest of us Confused ones wandered about finding our way, our path, our selves… was their vision not clear enough? Their steps not firm enough? Their hearts not steady enough? Was it some misstep on their part that allowed this man, this heartless man, and many others like him, to rise up to power on the strength of all of our backs?
Or was the answer, instead, that, for far too long, we have allowed our Determined brothers and sisters to walk alone, while we enjoyed the privilege of being confused?
It’s OK if you’re confused. It’s OK if you don’t yet understand the path of the Determined. It’s OK if you scratch your head and sigh and puzzle over the gaps in your education that have allowed you to miss this evil that has been here all along.
Confusion is an open door to understanding. Open that door. Hear the footsteps of your Determined brothers and sisters who have been walking all along. Then, put on your shoes and join them.
The Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, famously said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Whether today was your first step or your millionth, our walk has just begun.