MLK and water balloons

First, this post is a little late, which also brings me to my apology to you, my readers! My desire to articulate my life this year has decreased as my homework has increased. It’s harder to pick up my iPad and write for fun when my professor’s 45 minute lecture, absurd amounts of writing and reading, and an interview summary over research loom over my head. And when I do get time our internet is being flaky-such is life in La Paz. Some days you don’t win, but today I did! Two food presents from teachers and the sun shining SO HOT that makes me regret my black pants and be thankful for the flip flops and tank top dress that I’m rocking. Needless to say, I found my perfect weather place. But I digress!

After school on Monday I made my way into San Miguel, better known as the War Zone these days. In preparation for Carnaval in three weeks, water balloons, foam, and teenage boys lurk in the park and drive up and down the streets with their windows down, waiting for their next target, armed with countless water balloons. It’s no secret to anyone that my street anxiety sky rockets during this season, therefore I employ more taxi drivers in exchange for peace of mind. In the name of self-care, I can’t even say I will or won’t taxi here or there. It’s more like, if you’re caught in the middle of the war zone or a potential battle arises, I forget the fact that it might be good for me to exercise and walk the few blocks home. It’s worth it to avoid the unknown-are they going to hit the white girl (the million dollar target) with their ammunition? I wish I could wear a sign that said I didn’t want to play, but that’s not how it works around here. The police do their best to keep the balloons filled with water, and the latex remnants on the streets are evidence of hours of fun already passed.

Sunday, Willow Creek Church did a phenomenal job bringing awareness and a charge surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day. After an interview with a sister church in Chicago, Bill Hybels asked his gang where they stood on a continuum of racism-active racist, passive racist, beginner reconciler, and advocate. My life has really come full circle. The northwest farmland of Iowa doesn’t scream diversity. Then all of the sudden I was in a college small group with Filipinos, Colombians, Puerto Ricans, African Americans, and oh yeah, like two white people. Chicago says you’re welcome. My four years in Elgin opened my eyes and helped transition me for living as a minority in La Paz for the past 5 years. 

As I think back to those nerve-racking few minutes in San Miguel, I can’t help but be thankful for the gift of my time in La Paz. The boy in the red sedan undoubtedly saw the fear in my eyes as I quickly jumped behind a car as he fake pumped his water balloon at me, laughed, and sped away. I wasn’t laughing even though his game is harmless, and found myself beyond thankful that this is my last year to experience this ridiculous holiday. Why do you have to attack innocent pedestrians? Why is this game fun for you? But I wonder how the world would change if every majority was forced to live as the minority. What if you were everyone else’s favorite target? Would we be more conscious of the water balloons we fill, carry around, throw? Maybe you, like me, didn’t even realize you were part of the game by just walking the streets. Would we consider the person before we launch sayings or phrases or cast judgement? I think about what makes me the most angry here-and it’s getting cheated because my light skin and hair communicate so much, especially money. But this is nothing compared to the things I know my minority friends deal with so frequently. I have so many lessons I’ll treasure as a result of my time here. My minority friends, I’ll never completely understand your life, but I’m so glad you’ve invited me to be part of yours. One of the best ways to bridge divides is through relationships. You’ve given me a gift.

Would you be willing to take this pledge with me? Will you pray and ask God to break down the barriers to make room for more of His character? Will you take a risk, find courage, and step out into something that might make you feel uncomfortable and join the army that is rising up to break every chain? Today, I celebrate diversity, and pledge to use the story God is weaving in and through me to empower people to embrace who God created them to be.

  

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