One of my very favorite yoga teachers, Nicole, taught me this saying. It means that wherever you are at this moment is where you are supposed to be. No need to think about where else you could be or why you aren't further along than you hoped you would be. Life is a journey, and we are just here for the ride.
Last night this saying kept reverberating in my head as I found myself attending a vigil to end gun violence in Brighton. My dear friend with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Cindy Kalogeropoulos, asked me 3 weeks ago if I would speak at their vigil, and my initial reaction was to say no because our annual holiday party was scheduled the night before and I knew that I would be tired. (For the second year in a row, we hosted about 100 people, so yes I was exhausted!)
However, I set a goal for myself to speak at least once a month, and I didn't have anything else scheduled for December. So I reluctantly said yes. I say reluctantly because vigils can be hard to stomach. On top of that, telling your story as a survivor of gun violence can be draining. I have been talking publicly about my dad's suicide for over two years now. Sometimes I feel like I am running out of things to say.
Luckily last week I had some inspiration, and I began writing my speech. However, when Saturday rolled around and I only had a couple of paragraphs prepared, I panicked right before our holiday party; I quickly added a few more paragraphs to my speech, and then I had the idea to reuse some of my speech from the August rally where I spoke in Detroit.
How apropos that the first guest speaker, Reverand Julie Brock from Community Unitarian Universalists of Brighton, said that when she was asked to speak this year, she too wanted to read a speech she had given on the same topic as well. Here I was beating myself up for not being original enough, and then I heard exactly what I needed to hear - that it's OK to repeat yourself. Hell, politicians do it all the time. In fact, I was so glad that Rev. Brock DID a repeat performance, since I didn't hear it the first time. She recited a poem that she wrote about gun violence, and it both chilled me to my bones and resonated with me so deeply. I thanked her for her beautiful words when she sat back down next to me.
I was the next guest speaker, and I stumbled over my words a bit, in lack of both sleep and proper preparation. I was hard on myself, thinking I have given much better speeches. There were 3 more guest speakers after me, and the third speaker, Reverand Yolanda Whiten of St. James A.M.E. Church in Brighton, put me to shame! She had no words prepared but just walked up to the pulpit and breathed fire and motivation into the audience, demanding them to do something other than just attending the vigil. Rev. Whiten's speech was one of the most moving speeches I have ever witnessed, and it is why I am determined that I was meant to be in that audience. She even referenced my dad during her own speech while encouraging everyone to act.
After the vigil ended, I was pleased to receive feedback that my speech was very moving as well. As my husband said to me afterward, we are always the hardest on ourselves and we are our own biggest critics. Sometimes we need to step back and just take a look at things from the perspective of our loved ones. Most of the time, they are proud of us no matter what. We must be more gentle with ourselves.
When I told Rev. Whiten afterward how incredible she is, her response shocked me. She was very humble and modest. I said to her, "Come on, you must know how awesome you are!" She replied that she is just glad to be able to touch people. I feel the same way. She also said something to me that didn't resonate with me at the time, but it does now. What Rev. Whiten said to me is that I must understand that I am doing God's will and God's work, and that I am using my voice and my talent to make change. At the time, I smiled and nodded, because as you may know about me, I am not so much a believer in God per-say. What I DO believe in, though, is that there is some life force that brings people together and puts people in the right places. I believe that I can apply what Rev. Whiten told me to continue to do my work to end gun violence in this country, through my gifts and my passion.
So I ask you, if you are reading this, to take a deep breath in, hold it, and then breathe it out slowly. You are exactly where you are supposed to be my friends.
Rev. Julie Brock, Me, Rev. Yolanda Whiten, and Dr. Donnie Beasley Bettes (who is running for State Representative in MI's 42nd District)