Several years ago, I had the good fortune of meeting Reverend Jim Lee and introduced him to the Compassion Games.
It was this conversation that led to the Love This Place campaign.
In the early sixties, in the thick of the Civil Rights movement, at the Voters Rights office in Alabama, John Lewis was about to step outside into the parking lot to meet members of the Ku Klux Klan. Mr. Lewis, appointed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to head the voters rights effort, and has since gone on to become Mayor of Atlanta, US Congressman, and Ambassador to the United Nations, received a call that the KKK were coming and that he might want to carry a gun. As he headed out the door to the ever so haunting image of men in white hoods, he went to pick up his gun, but his wife insisted he put it back in the desk drawer. She told him, ever so firmly, that he was to “Go Out There And Love The Hell Out of Them!”, and that’s just what he did. The KKK left peacefully that night. John Lewis later wrote the Voters Rights Act that was passed in 1964.
While the Civil Rights Act has been passed and is now part of history, the cellular memory of fear, hatred and distrust is still as prevalent and unhealed in too many places in our great country today. “It’s as old as slavery” says Reverend Jim Lee, Sr. Minister of Renaissance Unity Church in Warren, Michigan in the Metro Detroit area. Every time a white policeman kills another black victim it keeps striking at the same nerve. Not that the act is not severe enough on it’s own volition, it’s just a matter of time before these nerves are going to erupt and lead to riots like those that have burnt cities to the ground in the past. Just one more strike at that nerve is enough to remove the thin veil covering the deep rage that we all know is there and bubbling to a boil, felt by people of all races, religion and culture.
Rev. Lee is responding to these mounting tensions in his community and feels strongly that the Compassion Games is the antidote to healing this burden that has plagued his community since the beginning of our country’s history, resurfacing again and again through time. He is determined to Love The Hell out of his community by “rewiring the cellular memory to a place of forgiveness so his city can thrive – so the beloved community can emerge.” Rev. Lee wants to be very clear, “Forgiveness is not about forgetting the past. It doesn’t change what happened. What changes is the interpretation and perception with a new quality, a new tone can emerge to heal us today, so we can move on to the beloved community.” Rev. Lee says he wants to “Love our way thru the pain. Let’s make the pain the lesson, not the reason.”
The Love This Place! Story Mapping challenge is a perfect opportunity to help Metro-Detroit start seeing their community through the lens of the places that they Love. They have set a goal of 1,000 people identifying the places they love in the Metro-Detroit area and posting a photo and a description of why they Love This Place. They might take a picture of the park bench, the 100 year old tree they pass each day, the corner market, or a historic building. When we start looking around our community for the things we love, we find so much more to love than we had ever realized. We become reprogrammed in that moment to be more loving toward ourselves. We will never look at that tree the same without recalling that love.
Rev. Lee knows we don’t have a single leader for this time of historic tension uprising like we have had in the past. He reminds us this only means it’s our time to step into our own power, into our own courage, into our own light and compassion, and he says, “if we don’t change we are just staying in the blame-shame game. It’s time to move beyond that and it’s each of us alone that we have been waiting for, together.”
We may not have one single leader, but Reverend Lee is an exceptional model of what one person can do and he inspires us to rise to this challenge. The Compassion Games are all about challenging ourselves and others to stretch our compassion muscles just a little bit further, deeper and higher through what naturegave us; the gift of life coupled with choice. The Games remind us to choose how we respond when our deepest instinct to protect ourselves, our families, our communities, and all that we consider sacred is threatened. Gone are the days when we let fear rule us, when we demonize others, or we wait for someone else to change. Here are the days where we can Love away the fear, distrust and threat… Reverend Lee is is here to lead us to “Love our way through the pain to healing.”