The feeling is palpable – a wall is up, and I’m the enemy. Black inner city woman – tired, and depressed, and with seemingly little to say, has ID’d me: White. Privileged. Unknown to poverty.
Of course, she’s right. Only thing, one generation back, there was no privilege and there were only blue collar workers and a struggle to get through eighth grade. We grew up in the Bronx, not really understanding what it was like to need to board people in your apartment to bring in some extra money. To pay insurance salesmen who came to your door the required fifty cents a week, so you could bury your elders.
They say epigenetics is discovering how we carry in our genes the history of our parents and grandparents. I believe it. It accounts for why still in my refrigerator sits the last of the pot roast I made two weeks ago; I will not eat it or serve it, but throwing away food is a very hard thing. It is also why I have a kind of reverse snobbism for those who have not struggled, even a little, and become enraged with those who stand in the way of others who need to fight their way through life to get even a little piece of it for themselves.
No matter. None of this helps me through the wall.
At the third visit, she mentions that she used to preach for her church, The Jehovah Witnesses. She has with her the JW bible which I’ve never seen before. It has taken all of the verses and re-written them in contemporary English. It has some pictures. It is made for people to understand. And she begins to tell me about it.
Now, for years, I have known Witnesses are wholly against the way I live my life: a cultural Jew, a woman married to another, the mother of a son born of that union. But here she is, her eyes wide open, and leaning in to tell me about the thing she most values in her life, and her speech is the best I’ve ever heard it because the wall is down.
She is speaking, and I am listening. Deeply listening.
What miracles occur on both sides of the wall.