Lately, I’ve been overwhelmed by a single thought: it’s an honor to hold someone’s story. It’s an honor to hear a person’s story, and it’s an honor when the deepest parts of someone’s experience and history is shared with you.
A year or so, I began conducting interviews for my book. Even though the book is largely a memoir about my journey into issues of race, it’s also the collective story of a whole lot of people. It’s the story of my family, and it’s the story of the HBH (Hot Black Husband’s) family. It’s the story of the town I grew up in, and the church and faith I was raised in; it’s the story of our country and it’s the story of many different facets of the West Coast. It’s the story of meeting and marrying interracially, and it’s the story of claiming a piece of American history as my own. It’s a story of theology and the Church, just as it’s a story of the God of the marginalized and the oppressed, of the Christ of justice who loved other people without limitations. It’s a story being a parent to mixed-race children, and it’s the story of being changed by issues of racial and social justice.
It’s a story of love, of a Love bigger than ourselves.
In the midst of hearing and holding the stories of pastors and theologians, of mixed-race individuals and parents of biracial and mixed-race children, of other interracial couples, and of my own family members and friends, I’ve come to a single conclusion: it’s an honor.
I may not agree with everything that’s been said, but I think, just maybe, I’ve begun to learn from it. I’ve learned more about my own history, and why I am the way I am, and I’ve learned that I’m not alone in the stories that make me me, in the experiences that made me feel like I was the only one.
But more than anything I’ve learned that by listening we gain understanding, and maybe in seeking to understand other people, our capacity for empathy grows, too.
A few nights ago, I sat at a wine bar with a couple of girlfriends. They’re new-to-me friends, as most of Seattle still is to my family and me, but we dropped emotional shields that evening and tried our hardest to be our truest selves, at least for a couple of hours.
“What about the ugly parts of your story?” One of the women, an attorney by day, asked me.
I danced around her question for a few minutes, but finally honed in on that single thought again: it’s an honor to hold someone’s story. And if someone has ever-so-graciously offered us a gift – a gift that just so happens to be in words – then we do what we’d do with any other gift: we say thank you. We hold the gift and we honor the gift. Even in and with the ugly parts, we honor one another as best we can. So, we seek to understand so we might honor the real, live, fleshy person behind the story.
Because stories come from persons, and persons are humans, and humans, after all, matter deeply to God.
And that, in a nutshell, is what I get to do with interviews: I get to hear stories and honor the humans behind them. Whether or not their actual story ends up in my book, it helps me tell the bigger story better. It helps me recreate the memories of the past, and put together broken pieces of the puzzle.
I’ll be done with interviews soon, and then I’ll tackle the rest of book – because right now, although I’m tackling it in little chunks, I’m mostly just listening.
And that, as I said, is nothing short of an honor.
What about you? Do you consider it an honor when you get to hold someone else’s story? How have the stories of others changed you?0