Over the past year, Christ Church has held several conversations on issues relating to race. Conversations about race are always difficult, but these are conversations we must have. For our society to be better and for each member of our community to believe that his or her voice matters, we must have these conversations. One of our goals has been to reveal the depth of suffering that the marginalized endure, and to make us uncomfortable enough to work towards racial harmony and reconciliation.
I was very motivated by the many conversations that we've had - difficult but uplifting, revealing but inspiring, and dire but hopeful. I could sense that many of us reflected on what we can do - not to perpetuate the wrongs of the past, but how we can invest in our communities. Many reflected on healing the wounds of the past. Many prayed over the best way forward. What can we do to mitigate the effects of past wrongs? As I have shared before, we cannot pray away the past nor can we pray away past sins that have had such a tremendous effect on millions of Americans.
Here is one of those past wrongs: a few days ago, I read a story about Opal Lee’s family. They purchased a home on Annie Street in Forth Worth, Texas. Like any new homeowner, they were excited but their neighbors were not because the home was in what was considered a “white neighborhood.” On June 19, 1939, Opal Lee watched in utter revulsion and amazement as a mob of over five hundred (500) White supremacists razed their family home to the ground. In spite of their presence, the police failed to intervene.
There are countless similar stories that have shaped people over the years. And the sad tragedy is that the urge that drove these people to raze Opal’s family house hasn’t abated. Recent stories point us to the contrary - that it has only gotten worse.
What can we do?
Our task is to challenge and change the narrative. Our task is to invest in ourselves and in our communities. Our task is to provide hope in places where hope is lacking. Our task is to inject ourselves with a good dose of some drug I know... the name of that drug is compassion. Our task is to fill the other’s life with laughter. Our task is to ensure that every individual has access to the best that our community has to offer. Our task is to help shape the lives of our future citizens. Our task is to provide these youth with examples of compassion and grace.
Many are the different outreach programs that have been initiated by us and others to offer the bare essentials to our poor neighbors. But life is more than bare essentials; we also have to explore the possibility of providing our children the tools they need to change their narrative.
As a result of this belief, we thought about investing in the human potential-to offer a gift - an SAT Summer Camp that would offer something substantial to these children and help them chart a different course in life. We dare to do this because we want the children to know that their neighbors believe in them and support their educational aspirations. We dare to do this because investing in their future is investing in the community’s future.
There is a story of a corporation that offered one thousand frequent-flier miles for every ten purchases of one of their foods. A smart man calculated that their cheapest product was individual cups of chocolate pudding. Once he realize this, he bought more than twelve thousand cups.
And so for $3,000, he received gold status and a lifetime supply of air miles for himself and his family. He also donated the pudding to charity, which netted him an $800 tax write-off.
Jesus once told a parable about a cunning manager who, as he was being fired, reduced what debtors owed his master. The man believed that he could rely on their help in the future. We dare to do this because we do not know who it is that we
may have to rely on in the future.
Although Jesus commended the shrewd manager, he also believed that we could learn from his ingenuity. Jesus said we should shrewdly “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it s gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings” (Luke 16:9).
I am very, very thankful to Tami Paumier and her husband Glen Warren for graciously accepting to fund the program. They also believe in investing in our children for the sake of changing our narratives. With their help and support, we will launch The Cy Paumier Scholars Program at Christ Church. I am sure they are as proud as we all are about this new ministry.
And so, on Wednesday, June 22nd at 4:00 p.m., we will welcome students and staff of Oakland Mills High School, Howard County Executive Calvin Ball, Dr. Michael J. Martirano, HCPSS, and others to Christ Church for a reception and official launch of the program. It is our prayer that many of you will join us in celebrating this milestone.
For me, nothing gives me greater joy than the thought of knowing that we can contribute to someone’s life. Nothing gives me greater joy than knowing that little things make a difference in people’s lives. Nothing gives me greater joy than letting someone know that I believe in him or her, that we all believe in them.
I believe in these children, and I believe that investing in them is the one gift that can make all the difference in their lives. It is also one gift that can also change their narrative.
On this Juneteenth week, we choose to announce that we are all free. We choose to rebuild Opal’s house. We choose to contribute to the lives of our neighbors. We choose to set ourselves free from the bondage in which we hold others and ourselves. We choose to invest in each other because we believe in one another.