Last night Hillary Clinton made history by accepting the Democratic Nomination, which means she has the potential to become the first female president of the United States of America.
My Facebook and Twitter accounts blew up with people who were excited about the U.S. “making history.”
Which is fine. Whether you agree with her politics or not, simply looking at the campaign through the lens of gender, it’s Clinton’s moment, and it’s an important moment.
But instead of being excited about the moment, if I’m really honest, I just have to tell you — it makes my heart ache.
Because while this might be a woman making U.S. history, the U.S. is not making world history. In terms of having female presidents, Germany, England, Liberia, Bangladesh, Lithuania, Senegal, Norway, Latvia, Chile, Poland, Switzerland, Croatia and the Philippines have beaten us to the punch.
While multiple studies have shown that women are more effective CEOs and presidents than men, the U.S. has been sluggish to acknowledge this data, let alone act on it.
Why? I woke up asking this morning, shedding tears for all the women who have been shut out through the history of the U.S.
In airports and metro stations, I often see signs that say, “If You See Something, Say Something.” It’s a request from law enforcement to notify them if you see any dangerous or suspicious activity.
This past weekend, I hosted three of my dearest friends for Girls Weekend at a home in eastern Oregon where I’m housesitting for the month of July. During the day, we kayaked and picnicked and explored the Columbia River and Wallowa Lake. In the evenings, we made dinner and sat around talking until waaaaaaay too late into the night.
I had the idea to do a Question Jar. We each wrote five questions on separate scraps of paper, and then put them into the jar. When it was your turn, you had to close your eyes and pick one of the questions from the jar and answer it — and then everyone else had to answer it, too.
Some questions were light-hearted, like Who was your first kiss? If 2016 was a movie, which song would be the soundtrack? What are the best 3 things that have happened to you over the past year?
But there was one question that really stood out. Someone wrote the question, What 3 adjectives would you use to describe each girl in this room?
“How we live our days…is how we live our lives.” — Annie Dillard
It happened gradually over more than a decade but, as I wrote last week, I went from saying, “I want to change the world someday” to saying, “I want to heal the world someday.”
Then, I realized that it wasn’t possible for me to heal the entire world. It was only possible for me to heal my world — the people in my social circle, my neighborhood, my faith community, my medical practice, my family, the people with whom I was personally in contact. So I began to say, “I want to heal my world someday.”
But I kept waiting for something to happen in the future. Waiting to finish my degree, waiting to get a high-profile job, waiting to write a best-selling book, waiting to get my “big break,” whatever that turned out to be. I thought I would heal the world from a high, far-reaching platform.
Getting a book deal actually reinforced this idea, because everyone in the publishing world asks you about your platform. How many followers do you have on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter? How many hits does your blog get? How many times does your name appear in Google Alerts?
So I kept waiting for my platform to expand and elevate.
Yesterday I flew from Florida to Oregon, which means that I was on airplanes for most of the day. I got home from the airport around midnight and checked my phone — to find the horrific news coming out of Dallas. Coming on the heels of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, the murder of five police officers was….well….words simply fail to describe the tragedy and travesty.
I woke up this morning with so many emotions, which I tried to untangle as I sat on the couch, drinking my coffee, watching it rain. I felt grieved, appalled, saddened….and helpless.
I don’t live in Baton Rouge or Minneapolis or Dallas. I can’t bring the guilty parties to justice. I can’t bring back the lives that we have lost over the past three days.
If you’re anything like me, maybe you woke up feeling this way, too. What do we do when we feel hopeless, powerless, helpless? What do we do in the wake of senseless tragedies?
Yesterday I read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between The World And Me. It’s a letter from a black father to his son, reflecting on his experience of discrimination, racism and the broken narrative Americans live with, where wealthy white men have pursued the American Dream at the expense of people whose skin color was different from theirs. (They also pursued it at the expense of people whose gender was different from theirs — but that’s a post for a different time.)
The men who colonized North America invoked God’s name and therefore, it supposedly followed, God’s blessing, as they lied to, pillaged and poisoned Native Americans.
As they bought, sold, whipped, raped and humiliated Africans who they consigned into slavery.
As they wrote that, “All men are created equal,” but conveniently excluded people of other skin colors from the definition of “all men.”
As they hired scientists to publish reports saying that Africans were closer to animals than human beings. As they used euphemisms like Noble Savages, White Saviors and Manifest Destiny to justify their horrific behavior.
As they preached the inherent right to pursue liberty and freedom, while denying that right to others.
Today, as America celebrates Independence Day, I’ve been thinking about what Americans — especially American Christians — are supposed to do with the freedom we have.
I have spent the past nine months working on my second book, which is about seeing Jesus show up in Togo, the least happy country in the world, during the three months I spent working at a hospital there last year.
I sent in the second rewrite last week. The day after I turned it in, I was riding the train from Bloomington, IL to Chicago to take my niece and nephews to the zoo. As we passed miles and miles of corn fields, I started out the window, trying to figure out how to explain what my book is really about.
In the writing world, they call it “The Elevator Pitch.” In other words, if you’re on the elevator with someone else, how can you explain your writing project to them before you get off on the next floor?
The closest I’d been able to come was that people talk about the art of medicine, and the science of medicine, but my book is the theology or spirituality of medicine.
When I interviewed for the Yale PA program, I told the admissions panel I was going to change the world someday. But what I have found in more than 10 years of practicing medicine in ER/Urgent Care settings, and then in Togo, is that it’s not possible for me to change patients. It’s only possible for me to heal them.
It’s not possible for me to single-handedly make them eat healthier, stop smoking, exercise more or take their medicine every day. It’s only possible for me to help the people who want to be helped, to offer resources and encouragement to patients who are motivated to change themselves.
To put it simply, if I wanted to change people, I should’ve become a politician. I should’ve spent money on a campaign, been voted into office, and wielded my power and influence to legislate behavior. But if I wanted to heal people, I needed to follow Jesus. And this, I realized, is the “Elevator Pitch” for the book. It’s about learning to heal a broken world instead of changing a wrong world.
Looking back on my interview at Yale’s PA program, I try to remember what I meant when I told them I was going to change the world some day.
In my mind, “changing the world” mean that I was single-handedly going to fix broken systems and places around the globe and that, because of my efforts, the entire world would be a radically different place.
I didn’t even know exactly what I was going to do for the world. I just felt energized and optimistic and, though Baptists don’t use this language, divinely anointed and appointed to do something special and major in the world.
And then, a year after I finished PA school, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Okay,” I thought. “This could be my big break. A book about my cancer experience.”
I imagined writing a literary masterpiece, with an insert of glossy photos that chronicled my journey.
I asked my mom to take pictures. Even when, after the mastectomy, I was in horrible pain. Even when, a week later when I was discharged from the hospital, I looked like a heroin addict coming down from a bad high — thin, pale, with bruises on my arms and dark circles under my eyes.
When I was interviewing at Yale’s Physician Assistant program, I was 22 years old, sitting across from a daunting admissions committee. One of the men on the panel lowered his reading glasses, looked down at me, and asked, “Ms. Thebarge, why should we let you into Yale?”
In that moment, I knew I had two choices. I could play it safe and give the usual answers — talking about Yale’s advantages, and about my GPA, volunteer experience and pre-requisite courses.
Or, I could go for broke and tell the man what I was really thinking.
I decided that Yale was never going to let a soft-spoken Baptist pastor’s daughter in anyway, so I went for broke.
I said, “The reason why you should let me into Yale is because I’m going to change the world someday, and I’m giving you the chance to say, ‘We knew her when.'”
The admissions panel was speechless.
Last week, I read about a new wedding trend. Apparently, at the reception, instead of throwing the bouquet, brides are handing one flower to each single woman in attendance and praying for her to find a husband.
When I read that, I thought, “HOLD.THE.PHONE.” And I wondered what I would do if I was at a wedding where the bride tried to do that to me.
Lucky for all of us, I was on a writing deadline and didn’t have time to do much blogging last week, which gave me the opportunity to figure out why the new trend is so insulting/offensive/condescending/troubling/problematic.
Here’s the deal. To you brides-to-be, first of all, Congratulations! I am genuinely excited for you.
And second, on behalf of me and my single sisters, please don’t do this at your wedding.
For starters, your wedding day is about you changing your marital status, not mine.
Also, it’s presumptive to assume that I would even want a husband right now. Just because you did doesn’t mean I do.
And, honestly, I don’t go to wedding receptions to be singled out, given leftover flowers and prayed for. The point of the day is to celebrate you, not to console me.
Lastly, there are lots of benefits and advantages to being single and, while I’m not opposed to getting married at some point, the season of life I’m in right now, with lots of opportunities to travel and write and speak, is only possible because I’m single. The Bible actually says singleness is preferable. It’s hard sometimes, no one throws showers for me or buys me presents from a registry or shows up at a special ceremony that took me a year of my life to plan.
But I love my life.
I’m happy for you that you’ve chosen a marriage partner, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that I need to find one now, too.
So. If you’re a bride-to-be, Cheers. Mazel Tov. Felicitations.
Enjoy your special day and, for the love of everything, please, please, please don’t give me a rose from your bouquet.
I know for a lot of people, Father’s Day can bring up a lot of bad memories of neglect, abuse, and worse. But I feel exceptionally blessed to wake up this morning feeling grateful because of the man my father is.
He’s been in full-time ministry for more than three decades, and has helped more people than anyone will ever know. Not only has he spoken and led from the front, but he has also shown up at hospitals, schools, mental institutions and funeral parlors to help families through their darkest, hardest moments.
He has also shown up for me — accepting, forgiving, encouraging and supporting me, even when I’m a less-than-stellar version of myself. After my mastectomy, when I was in terrible pain, he sat at the edge of my bed and rubbed my feet for hours, because it was the only touch that felt comforting to me at the time.
He has been a faithful husband and father and grandfather. He wakes up before dawn every morning to pray for each of us.
My dad also shows generosity and kindness in quiet ways that, to most people, go unnoticed — like the way he straightens up hotel rooms so the cleaning staff won’t have to work so hard.
This year, I’m blessed to be home for Father’s Day. Last night my sister and mom and I took my dad out to a nice restaurant. We bought him the oak tree he’s been wanting to plant in the back yard. We’re making him his favorite meal for dinner tonight.
Words and gestures and gifts fail to paint the full picture of who my dad is, but, after a lifetime of my dad showing up for other people, I’m grateful that I have the chance to show up for him.