My wife, Jen, tells the story of a formative moment when she was young. Her younger brother was turning 4 and the family was in the middle of their celebration. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents had all come to the house for the occasion.

The party moved from food to games and then to the presents. Her brother was surrounded by gifts and began to tear through wrapping paper creating a tornado of confetti with toys and books scattered about the floor in his path. As he proceeded one after the other, Jen — then 8 years old — approached her grandmother with excitement. She walked up to Grandma Carnes with expectation. Grandma Carnes was focused on her grandson, but as she could tell that her granddaughter needed to ask her something and wasn’t going anywhere until she did, she turned her gaze. 

That’s when Jen asked, "Grandma, where’s my present?"

Now, this question emerged from precedent. Earlier, the family had developed a system to offer comfort and consolation to the child who was not in the spotlight when the other was being honored. Whenever it was one child’s birthday, the other sibling received gifts, too. The whole family was in on this system … until now.

Grandma Carnes looked in the eyes of her granddaughter and replied lovingly but sternly, "It’s not your birthday. You don’t get a present."

At the age of 8, this was world-shattering. But talking to Jen now, it was a clarifying moment of what it means to be part of a bigger whole and the essential quality of humility to make it so.

Last Sunday, our congregation organized a new art installation as a public witness that featured the language, "Love Matters." "Justice Matters." "Black Lives Matter." In the first hour of installation and during our service, several drivers chose to make their reactions known and proceeded to yell out the windows, phrases like, "All lives matter," "What about white lives?" and "Come on! In front of a church?!?"

This was by no means representative of the majority of reactions, but in these moments I could not help but think of Grandma Carnes.

The Apostle Paul wrote of how a genuine community of compassion would behave, using the language of one body as symbol of intimacy with and connection to one another:

...the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those

members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and

our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more

respectable members do not need this… If one member suffers, all suffer together with

it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. (I Corinthians 12.22-24, 27)

Beloved community — one that can see clearly the societal injustices and inequality created among its members and move to address this by elevating members that society has regarded with less respect, contempt, and oppression — requires humility. It requires hearts that can allow attention to dwell on another, listen, and refrain from asking, "Where’s mine?" It requires hearts that can welcome and celebrate any goodness that comes to another without envy, and a heart that is willing to step out of its secure comfort to enter into the presence of those who are suffering.

In this time, humility of the heart is an essential gift we need. It is tempting to react to a lack of attention with a quick retort. At the same time, it is and will continue to be tempting for white folks who "get it" to try and make our knowledge of anti-racism or anti-racist words the center of attention too (note to self: they are not). The white community will require the gift of humility now and going forward to allow our collective attention, care, and commitment to center on our siblings of color.

May it be so.

Rev. Chris McCreight is ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently serves as minister of the Hiram Christian Church and chaplain of Hiram College. He is on Twitter @revmccreight.