Today we celebrate Reat, even as he celebrates in Heaven. Reat turns 19 today. I woke this morning exhausted from all the tears yesterday. So much crying gave me a headache and a very tired feeling this morning…as if, Reat is saying, “take a rest, Mom, I am okay.” I seem to always feel him saying, “I am okay”…mostly when I am a mess of tears and pain.
Reat was murdered by a white supremacist. He was murdered only seconds after his grandfather was gunned down at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, KS. I say these words often when I speak publicly and no tears come. Yet, yesterday and today…these words have been given a different frame of reference and the brokenness feeling has returned to my heart.
A friend of mine sent me a link to this conversation; How Friendship and Quiet Conversations Transformed a White Nationalist. There are several key points I want to make about 1. Receiving the link in the first place and 2. The messages I heard from the two men being interviewed.
Receiving the link in the first place: Four times in the past 30 days different friends of mine have either given me a book about a transformed White Nationalist/White Supremacist or Skin Head or sent me a link to a Ted Talk from a transformed White Nationalist and yet again, reaching out to White Nationalists, transformed or not was mentioned to me at a banquet.
The communication from others to me with the words, “I read this and I think you might want too, as well”, or “I heard/read this… and thought of you, I feel are a nudge from God.” are average of messages from God. Well actually by the time He has as sent three, it is a full blown push & request to act.
I didn’t consider the consequences of listening to the podcast. As I listened, unexpected tears flowed down my face. I was not aware that listening to Derek Black, raised as a White Nationalist and recently publicly denying this ideology, would take me emotionally close to the murderer of my father and son. In Derek’s description of his beliefs and how he promoted the ideology of White Nationalism he stated that he wanted blacks and Jews to leave the United States.
I listened intently, hoping and wishing that the murderer of my son and father had ONLY wanted Jews to leave the USA. Derek went on to say that as he began to make friends with blacks and Jews on his college campus he began to struggle with his world view and the fact that he now liked some blacks and Jews. He was forced to consider if his past promotion of White Nationalism had hurt anyone. “Had hurt anyone”, really? (more crying)
Matthew Stevenson, the Orthodox Jew on Derek Black’s campus invited Derek to Shabbat dinners for a “get to know your neighbor” conversation. I cried again. Realizing the bravery, the depth of intellect, care and compassion that Matthew had within him to reach out to a young man who believed that Matthew, himself (and all Jews) are worthless and a problem in the USA. Thus started the friendship and conversations as well as tough and determined ideology discussion amongst the new friend group created at a Shabbat dinner. If only someone with as much heart and bravery as Matthew would have tried to redirect the murder who shattered our lives. One person’s actions CAN make a ripple of kindness.”
Wishing Reat a Happy Birthday and discussing White Nationalism in the same message didn’t initially seem appropriate. Yet, it is appropriate. Reat is no longer hugging me, singing or laughing with family and friends…Reat never even filled a car with gas or took an extensive road trip with buddies before leaving for college. Reat won’t see Lukas (his now 16 year old brother) succeed in his life. No college graduation, no wedding, no children (or grandchildren for me). All of this and so much more…so many life transitions have been made to provide healing for our family because a White Nationalist/White Supremacist went farther than wanting Jews out of the USA. He wanted them dead. Neither should be accepted by any of us.
Promoting hate is promoting hate.
We chose and continue to choose LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. Love thy neighbor – and everyone is our neighbor.
Our Faith Always Wins Foundation stands on three pillars; Kindness, Faith & Healing. SevenDays® Make a Ripple, Change the World is our Kindness medium. Interfaith Dialogue with high school students is how we share all faiths and non-faiths with one another. Healing and specifically, healing in the workplace, requires productive effort. Resources are being created to help employers and employees heal in the workplace after trauma. www.mindycorporon.com.
In memory of Reat, his 19th birthday and in choosing LOVE, FAITH, KINDNESS & HEALING…I request you make a $19 donation to our Faith Always Wins Foundation.