I glanced at the notification that popped up on Waze. “Congratulations! You’ve driven 500 miles this week.” 500 miles? I thought to myself. That can’t be right, can it? I thought back to Saturday where I drove to Asheville and back to Columbia with two tired girls who had just rocked a swim meet. I thought about Monday where I had the honor to lead Bon Air Baptist in The Privilege Walk and a Bible Study related to their work with Palmetto Missionary Baptist Church in the Myrtle Beach area. Then I thought about the annual worship gathering for Baptist Women in Ministry in Atlanta.
What a week.
It was the kind of week that has left me road weary. Although it was refreshing and inspiring to lead the privilege walk with this group of youth, I know there so many who don’t want to engage or examine their privilege much less use their power and privilege to help others. Although it was refreshing and inspiring to gather with Baptist Women from around the country, there are still only 6.5% women who hold senior pastor or co-pastor positions in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
There’s still so much work to do and so few people who are willing to do the hard work of breaking down privilege and breaking down gender stereotypes. There are even fewer people who are willing to acknowledge their privilege (rather than defend their privilege) and use their voice to dismantle institutional sexism.
Even though I’m road weary, I’ll keep driving, keep teaching, keep worshipping, and keep writing for the women who have survived sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace and have been in tears this week because of the blatant reminder that America is still a culture of sexual harassment and sexual assault. I’ll keep driving, keep teaching, keep worshipping, and keep writing for those in socioeconomic situations whose voices are ignored and whose healthcare needs are decided by power and privilege. I’ll keep driving, keep teaching, keep worshipping, and keep writing for those two tired girls and their younger brother to have a healthier, more whole way of living and being themselves.
On Monday as we were leaving Mullins after visiting our grandparents, we ended up heading the wrong way. There was a detour because of road being repaired from Hurricane Matthew that brought us to stop. As we were rerouting, thanks to Waze, we ended up on a dirt road. I glanced at the road as we turning onto it just to make sure that we were finally headed in the right direction.
It read: Wise Women Road.
I laughed not only because so often when I am traveling I have to make U-turns or turn around, but because perhaps there was a greater meaning for this particular turn around. Perhaps five-minute of losing our way was the perfect reminder that sometimes wisdom comes from turning around. Sometimes finding your way means turning around. Sometimes wisdom comes from detours and road closures.
And sometimes teaching your daughters about wisdom means teaching them to admit their mistakes, their weaknesses, and to laugh at how it all whispers of bigger meanings and teachings.
I always knew that teaching would creep back into my life more fully once I graduated school, but I can’t say I anticipated teaching ESL, especially high school ESL. Now that the essays are graded and the grades are turned in, I have to admit that I’m sad my Monday afternoons won’t be filled with this group of kids.
Since this was their first year at the school, they all were required to take my class and many of them weren’t all that pleased to be there, but as we talked about my time in Germany, what prepositions to use for dates and times, we began to form an international community where it was safe to ask questions about noise makers (honestly, the noise maker that was in our room for test takers was something none of my 8 students had ever seen) and verb tenses and the definition of words.
When we talked about traditions, my European students were shocked to find out their Chinese classmates didn’t celebrate Christmas, nor did they have a break at this time of year from school. As they discovered this, they also discovered that all of the strange questions and comments they had received as outsiders or foreign exchange students had helped them understand not to assume anything about someone’s culture or experience, but rather to ask questions.
When we talked about what can be considered rude to teachers and not making the basketball team or the cheerleading squad, my hope is that they found a place that was a little less stressful and a little more like home because I remember how it feels to be an outsider and be the foreigner making the mistakes grammatically and culturally.
And maybe one day, they’ll be teaching a similar class in their home countries and offer the same for a class full of students.