Episode 5–White People Whispering their Own with Sara Thomsen

Sara Thomsen, Melissa & Chas on the Missouri River Water Walk

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In this episode we interviewed Sara Thomsen who was another of the core walkers on the Missouri River prayer walk. One night, after a long day of walking, & over some omelettes I had made in our RV kitchen, Sara shared something with us that is a beautiful example of dancing between “them” and “us”, between “then” & “now”. I think of this letter she crafted as an ‘elegant’ example of ‘whispering our own’ because she aligned on the shared values with her family & then went on to point out the dissonance, as she experienced it, between those values & their actions. The incongruence between their stated beliefs and their actions, particularly in relation to voting in a new US president, made her so ill-at-ease that her love of justice came face to face with her love for her family.

You can read that letter below & also go to 52:25 to hear Sara read her letter to us.

This was a lovely conversation in so many ways, except technically. Due to some things we are still ignorant/incapable of fixing in the audio, we have kept it on the shelf until now. But here it is, such as it is. Which is all of as can ever say in each given moment. Then we can go from there…

Here is a copy of the letter Sara crafted & shared with her family.

 

December 3, 2016

Dear family,

There’s been a lot spinning through my head and heart since the election of our next

president. I know as a family we are likely as split down the middle as our whole country.

In the wake of rising hatred, fear, diminishment and mocking of “the other,” I listen to

personal stories and read the news alarmed, distraught, and deeply, deeply saddened.

I don’t know what the solutions are. I only know that love is the only bridge I wish to use

to walk across the chasms—wherever they may appear, be it in our family, be it in our

nation, be it in our world. May only love be in my being, may only love be in my doing.

I want each of you to know how very much I love you. Beyond words, I love you. That

will ever remain the same. If you find me scoffing, deriding, dismissing, making fun,

making light of you or your beliefs and values, your experience –all that you hold dear –

you have my permission to call me on the carpet.

Where we have different understandings and core disagreements, I will listen and try to

understand where you are coming from. I won’t run to the attic to make place cards so as

to avoid being at the table when conflict arises. That may have been the beginning of my

artistic career, but the continuance of it will be to stay at the table. I might bring paper

and colored markers with me, but I will stay and listen.

I will also try to speak. In high school I remember being in choir rehearsal and there was

a poster on the wall that struck me. I don’t know if it was meant to be an acrostic, but

that’s how I viewed it –the words going across in all caps said “TRY A LITTLE

KINDNESS.” Reading the first letter of each word, top to bottom, it said “TALK.”

I wrestled with that, because I was super shy throughout all my school years, from

kindergarten on. I did not talk much and I struggled with having any words to say at

school. But I also really wanted to be a kind person, to be thoughtful, to be loving—all

those things I was being taught to be at home and at church. Try a little kindness. Talk.

The words prodded me to get out of my shy discomfort zone (being quiet when the world

around you expects words is not comfortable). I am pondering those words anew and find

I have reshaped the message to Silence is not golden. Sing.

All that I am or ever hope to be springs from seeds that you planted in my childhood. One

of those seeds was a friendship with Jesus. I treasure the story, Mom and Dad, that you

recount of our family being around the dinner table when I was three. Dad is entertaining

us with the “so big” antics. “How big is Daddy? So big!” Now he’s standing on his chair

reaching to the ceiling, getting bigger and bigger. So big that he is now lifting the

acoustic tile panel of the ceiling and going even higher. “He’s gonna see Jesus!” the three

year old me exclaims in complete awe and wondrous anticipation. A tumbling of laughter

ripples around the table.

My 47 year old me asks, “Where did Jesus Go?” We had a good relationship, Jesus and I.

Shyness was not a factor because I could talk to him about anything. When Grandma died

he was quick to hand the phone over so I could still talk to her. We got along.

Jesus made sense to me. Love God, love your neighbor. Even the neighbor you don’t like

and don’t really think is your neighbor. Love your enemy. Be a light. Don’t hide your

light under your nightstand. Challenge the powers that be when they trample on the weak.

Love children, love women and count them as full human beings. Be hospitable to

strangers in your midst. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, visit the

imprisoned. Behold the lilies of the field.

I struggle to understand how thoughts of Jesus played into a Christian’s decision to

support a candidate in my mind so antithetical to everything he was about. Here is where

I should rush to the attic to make place cards, but I’m going to try to be brave and listen,

and speak. The chasm of misunderstanding in my own family is the same chasm that runs

across this country. Prior to this election I was fine to let that chasm be. Let’s agree to

disagree. Let’s eat cake and talk about the weather.

I can’t talk about the weather anymore. I may still be able to eat cake but only because

food is the one thing that brings us together across all our differences. Election aside, all

this existed prior to November 8. The difference to me is that now we face a soon to be in

place administration that has across the board inspired more diminishing, deriding,

scoffing and outright hatred of whole groups of people than I have ever witnessed in my

lifetime. This is a presidential victory celebrated by the Klu Klux Klan and other White

Supremacist groups. I am trying to wrap my head around this and understand how I move

forward in these coming days, months, and years.

This I know: I will strive to the best of my capacity to be and do everything in love. I will

try a little kindness and speak up whenever I witness someone being disparaged or

denigrated because they are “other” than the person or persons doing the disparaging.

I will not be silent when my immigrant friend’s children are taunted in school with chants

of “Build the wall!” I will not be silent when my Muslim friends are bullied, when my

Jewish friends are mocked, when my women friends are sexually harassed, abused,

abased. I will not be silent when my LGBTQ friends are humiliated and demeaned, when

my Black friends are told to go back to Africa, my Latina friends to go back to Mexico. I

will not be silent when my Native American friends are derided, dismissed. I will not be

silent should I learn that anyone of you, my dear family, fall victim to hateful,

disparaging words, actions, or policies that are dehumanizing to you.

I will listen. I will speak. I will sing. Silence is not golden.

Sara

p.s. Here is a link to a new song I wrote as I’ve been processing all this: “Where Did

Jesus Go?”

 

You can find more on Sara through these links:

http://www.sarathomsen.com

https://www.facebook.com/sarathomsenmusic/

https://echoesofpeace.org/

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