We continue our conversation on Charlottesville by asking, “So, what are your hopes and dreams?” This is the same question that my husband asks pretty much every time we have the opportunity to go on a date, and depending on what mood I am in, I may give him a playful eye roll and change the subject or spend the next thirty minutes talking about how I want to start a food blog or own a bed and breakfast. Some of you may be able to spout off a long list of your hopes and dreams ranging from winning the lottery, landing your dream job (how do I get paid to be a food critic?), traveling, being famous, or pursuing an education at your ideal school; but for others, hopes and dreams may seem too hard to conceptualize and even harder to share with someone else. Perhaps your dreams come to you more in a big picture scenario like “change the world” or “make a difference,” and some may be thinking their dream is simply to be wealthy, successful, and/or important as defined by our current society.

Hopes and Dreams

A somewhat recent phenomenon (thank you Pinterest and social media) with families is the first day of school photo posted on social media where you document your child’s future hopes and dreams. Although the fad was non-existent thirty something years ago, I remember my aspiration in kindergarten was to be the first female president, followed soon after with plans to be a teacher, nurse, lawyer, and then psychologist. (I also wanted to take Leonardo diCaprio to prom, but he sadly never accepted my invitation.)  

I ended up going to college and majoring in psychology and later studying clinical social work at the University of Tennessee. The social work program was one of the most eye opening experiences for which I am extremely grateful. I was taught that history paints a certain picture depending on who is telling story, things like the Pilgrims and Native Americans all got along nicely and racism is a thing of the past. Once slavery ended and people of color and women were allowed to vote, our country became a land of equal opportunity, right? We also learned that a person’s environment can literally rewire their brains. Our environment and our experiences shape who we are (in addition to our genetic makeup), and last time I checked, we all have different environments and experiences.

Beauty in Difference

I feel so inadequate to raise this topic, as there are many more eloquent individuals with more experience and greater intellect. However, events over the past several months and especially this past weekend have strongly compelled me to speak out and share my experience. As a white, southern, Christian female, wife of a pastor/chaplain/PhD student, mother of three, and former school social worker, I hope to share my perspective for others like me who spent the first twenty something years of life with their head stuck in the sand.  

As a child I remember hearing that everyone is created equally and that everyone has the same opportunities; it is America after all. I understand that this is theoretically true, but the reality is something far from equal. This delusion contributes to ideologies and comments like “they should just pick themselves up by their bootstraps.” It is confusing for children to hear words of inclusion and equality in a formal setting but to later hear racial slurs and jokes directed at people of color, to hear gossip and disapproval of interracial couples, and to blame the local football team’s losses on all of the “Mexicans” who moved into town causing the school to move up a division (all things I have heard in my hometown). I also remember being taught to essentially be color blind; “we are all created equally, so we shouldn’t see color.” (I want to say that I did not hear these comments in my own home.)

I really think that this method of dealing with racism and prejudices began with good intentions, but to say that we are all created equally and therefore should see no color is not only impossible, but it robs people of a major part of who they are, their background, heritage, culture, and experience. And let’s be honest, color and uniqueness bring beauty to this world; I remind our children that color is a glorious gift! Furthermore, to claim that we see no color also allows those of us in the majority to then act like bias, prejudice, and systemic racism are not real.

Shared Hopes and Dreams

I am so weary of the hateful rhetoric on Facebook and other social media sites as people bash and name-call everyone on the other side of the political fence, but it especially grieves me when this rhetoric comes from people who claim to know and follow Christ, the dark-skinned homeless man who hung out with social outcasts, criminals, and the sick. This same Savior came to show us a different way and has also invited us to share Love, Hope, and Mercy with everyone we meet. Are we doing this? Are we listening and entering into people’s experiences, their struggles, and their hurt? Are we afraid to admit that racism exists because we would then have to point the finger at ourselves? Will we take this time to humble ourselves and admit that we are a part of the problem?

So, what are your hopes and dreams? Although I still dream of someday owning a bed and breakfast, today I feel especially called to raise children who see the world differently, who appreciate the opportunities they have while also having an awareness of the world around them. My hope is to raise children who see a playground full of other children from around the globe and not see ‘other’ but see their beautiful neighbors, classmates, and friends. My hope is for our family to stand in the gap with the marginalized, the hurting, and the broken and continue to advocate for a world where everyone can flourish. There is beauty and rest when we see one another as God sees us, full of life, beauty and color, in need of Hope, Love, and Mercy. May we commit today to enter into one another’s experiences with humility, compassion, empathy, love, and understanding as we stand together and work toward a better tomorrow.

“My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” (1 John 3:18)

Note from the Editorial Team:
Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.

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Heather Daniels

Author: Heather Daniels

Heather is a licensed graduate social worker (LGSW) who works part-time for a mental health therapy group in Washington, DC, serving children and families through the public school system. Heather has experience as a school social worker and mental health educator as well as working with students in churches. She and her husband, Joel, have been in ministry together as youth pastors and church planters since before they were married 16 years ago. Heather loves being in nature, baking yummy treats to share with friends, and taking their three beautiful children on adventures around the District.

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