• Sarah Ratermann Beahan

Reckoning & Delight 4

I spent the morning watching the inauguration with millions of my neighbors. My sister and sister-in-law texted me about watching this historic moment with their daughters, my nieces aged almost-eight and thirteen. I watched Vice President Harris walk onto the dais, her whole being aglow.

If we can learn one thing from our new VP, it is that we need not check our emotions at the door to be in the political spotlight, this boy’s playground. While I am certain our esteemed Vice President has been counseled to keep her emotions in check time and time again, what I remember and respect about her are the times when her indignation, determination, disgust and elation have been on display.

I am glad that my nieces were able to see her joy today. I sat here at my desk watching the whole thing on YouTube wondering what the almost eight-year-old would remember. When I was eight, I was telling anyone who would listen that I wanted to be the first woman president. I had no interest in anything that went along with the job of being president, but I was interested in breaking down barriers.

I thought about what the thirteen-year-old was thinking as she watched our first female, Black, Asian-American vice president place her hand on two Bibles and take the oath. By the time I was thirteen I’d given up on the idea of being the first woman president, I could see the long uphill battle that women would be faced with—continue to be faced with—and I already at that young age knew I wasn’t fit for that particular battle.

The moment when Angela Gorman took the stage to recite The Hill We Climb took my breath away. The water leaking out of my eyes dried up, I sat completely still and thought “I want to be like her when I grow up.” This twenty-two-year-old, our first National Youth Poet Laureate (fuck yes!) with her words of uplift and humility is what I aspire to be.

We heard a lot about unity today in speeches and invocations and benedictions. But we also heard this other word a whole heck of a lot, a concept I have given a lot of thought to of late. Love. Love for our neighbor, our country, our democracy, our freedom.

We got an anniversary card in the mail a few months ago with the 1: Corinthians verse written in script against a shiny, glittered backdrop. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, is not proud nor does it boast. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. It is truth seeking.

Over the last few years there is this sentiment about unity that I have struggled with. “Choose Love.” “Choose Kindness.” Pleas to be kinder to one another to heal the wounds of centuries of genocide and enslavement. Circles of love and light to heal the earth. I am impatient and dismissive of these hollow platitudes, and I am often not popular for this opinion.

Love is a verb. Love is action. Love is not passive and in its action, it sometimes means pain and hardship. I believe any parent will agree with this. Love is being accountable and holding others accountable, with compassion and honesty.

I have been pushing myself to find examples of this in my own life, to check myself. Am I loving through action? How?

This weekend my sister and I had a series of difficult conversations. Not arguments (to which we are accustomed) but discussions about the ways our behaviors and patterns have challenged our relationship. My assertive nature rubs raw her desire to keep the peace. This friction has often created a landscape comprised of smoke and mirrors—neither of us know what is real. It was exhausting to talk honestly, openly, without defense and then to shift our practices in real time. It was painful and raw and healing. That is love.

One of my oldest, dearest friends is a conservative. We don’t see eye to eye about much about politics or social change. I know he is a good man with a big heart, and over the years we have challenged each other’s way of thinking for the better. A few years ago I unfriended him on Facebook after a conversation that was particularly harsh. I did it not simply because I was angry with him, but because it had become clear to me that we would have a stronger, more constructive friendship if it existed in real life and outside the confines of social media. I wasn’t sure that would be the case, I was nervous about it in fact. Turns out, I was right (at least I think I was). We still have challenging conversations. I still think his views are total dumpster fires sometimes. But when his dad died unexpectedly, there was no question that I would get in the car and drive the 8 hours to be at the funeral.

Love is a verb.

Today, I am both reckoning with and delighting in – which is a great fucking place to be, by the way – is how my love for my neighbors, my community, my country, my earth gets actualized. How does my love for those who are across this chasm of division becomes action, not simply thought? It is not enough for us to say we love. As they say in my home state of Missouri, Show Me. And that takes courage to engage, be honest, hold accountable with empathy and compassion, to reach out and in.

As Angela Gorman says, “If we merge mercy with might and might with right, the love becomes our legacy and change our children’s birthright.”

May the love be with you.

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