White Flags

Today I Carry… A White Flag

I was out the other night in Seattle with several friends.  We were drinking, laughing, enjoying life... It's been a tough couple of weeks for most of us, and one of us was visiting from out of town, so we were celebrating.  It was a pretty typical fun, dressed up, cocktails and dreams kind of night out, just us four thirty-something year old women giggling as walked down the sidewalk in pairs, with a sole husband in our mix laughing at our ridiculousness and playing designated driver.  

As we walked from one bar to the next, we crossed a street to walk past an urban church, one I’ve never really noticed before even though it’s large, and beautiful, with vines growing through the gate that surrounds it.   Suddenly, everything slowed down.  Our chatty groups fell quiet, and broke apart, as we all came to a stop at different intervals of the street, staring, at first uncomprehending, but at the same time recognizing power and beauty. What are all these white flags fluttering in the wind, tied to the wrought-iron?

The goosebumps started. I turned to look closer at the white strips of fabric tied to every single rail of the fence that lined the entire city block.

“We stand against oppression.”

“You are loved.”

“You are valued.”

“You are not alone.”

And then, amongst the flags, I noticed the sign:

“In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election,

You may be scared,

You may be tired,

You may feel hopeless,

You may be angry,

You may be triggered,

You may be oppressed

The notes here are from our church community to you. Read them and know that we love you. We need you. We will work for justice. We believe that racism, sexism, homophobia and any form of hatred is contradictory to the good news that Jesus taught us and asks us to live.

There are more ribbons and pieces of fabric here if you wish to tie one on the bars of the church as a sign of solidarity for anyone feeling vulnerable among us.

Peace be with you.”

I read more. Then,  one that made my breath catch in my throat:

“You are not a thing to be grabbed. I will walk with you.”

Tears welled up, and right there and then I offered up an intense prayer for the man who wrote a message to me, to everyone woman who needed to hear it. Gratitude filled my entire body. We are not alone.

There were hundreds of these messages, tied there specifically for people to read, but also for people to untie and take with them if needed. A variable wall of support, of empathy, of love, fluttering so beautifully in the night breeze. It was like seeing hope, incarnated. Every single person in my group stood there, stunned, all set slightly apart from each other, reading the messages, slowly wandering back and forth along the block, glancing at the each other with love and surprise, almost to say, “Do you see this, too?”

The resounding answer from the depth of each of our souls was, “Yes… I see you. I see this. I see love.” Separate but together, I stood there with my friends and soaked each and every message I read deep into my bones, holding them all there as truth, and in that moment I knew that we are going to be okay.

We are pretty far away from the purest place we could be, where we look at each human as a human first: a person inherently worthy of love and belonging, a person on their own path with their own challenges. We have a lot of work to do. A lot of listening, a lot of loving, and a lot of heartbreak and pain to face. But somehow, through all of the scary things going on in this world, we are going to make it out. I believe that now.

Today I carry a white flag, but it is not of surrender. It is of love, and of hope, and I will lift this banner and carry it with me into battle. It’s going to be a fierce battle, this battle against judgment, and fear, and hate, and anger, and intolerance, and injustice. But we can do it. We can do it together. It’s going to be hard. But we can do hard things.

Today I raise my white flag, one that declares “You are loved.” There is light in this world. I am loved. And you, my dear reader, are, too.

Jennifer Underwood

About the Author

Jennifer Underwood

Jennifer is a coach, a counselor, and an entrepreneur, who lives in Seattle with her daughter. To find out more, check out the About Me page.

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