Bottom Line: Spirit takes me where I need to go to expand and grow. In recent years, I have ‘gone’ to friends who do not think like me. They are different hues — Some are black, some white; but they are… here it comes… CONSERVATIVE!! I have attracted folks who have become FRIENDS and who have little in common with my political or spiritual outlook on life. The thing is, I know these folks have become a part of my life to enable ME to shift– to understand people have DIFFERENT viewpoints. Let me be clear. This doesn’t mean I have to agree with them; that they influence me to support their beliefs, or vice-versa. It means I am called to understand the concept “LOVE” in a way that transcends my original assessment of the word. The following encounter illustrates what I am saying:
We clicked the moment we met, this Caucasian woman and I. She became a part of the church I Pastored. She had a husband with cancer; my husband transitioned from cancer; we socialized at our homes, and appreciated antiques together. She became my friend. Her back yard was welcoming, and “my spot” included two comfortable chairs and a small table between them. One afternoon, we sat in her beautiful yard on the two chairs to chat. We did not intend to “go there” with race relations and politics, but we found ourselves on a path that was narrow. So, we fell into our stories.
She told me about her remembrances of Cicero, in Chicago, where she was raised in the 50s. (Just the mention of Cicero gave me an Eckhart Tolle “painbody.”) She never knew folks of color in friendships back then, (nor did I), and her dad was “Archie Bunker.” Every race and culture met his venom. While she was uncomfortable with the viewpoints of her dad, she was comfortable with the status of America in the 50-60s. She felt the span of the eagle’s wings that symbolized America’s strength and stature. She felt safe. She pondered, “Why can’t things be as they used to be?”
I spoke to her about one of my experiences growing up in Chicago. I lived on West 57th Street, maybe 20 miles from Cicero, where my friend grew up. We lived literally on the other side of the tracks from an exclusively white neighborhood. Each week, we ventured across those tracks to the only large grocery store in our area. Every trip, we were chased by white kids. They threw rocks and called us… well you know what they called us. My friend and I spoke about the march on Cicero and the Civil Rights Movement. We spoke about the America she did not and could not know and why America had to change. She heard me. However, what I said did not influence her feelings about America as a super power and how it had lost its prominence in the world.
We discussed the political discomfort of our nation. At the end of this conversation, (there would be many to follow), my friend lamented, “I just wish things were the the way they used to be.” I rebutted, in the same sad tone, ” Thank God, things are not the way they used to be.” We crossed the divide of the table and held hands. She looked into my eyes; I looked into her’s. We both knew a shift had occurred.
What in the world could this woman’s viewpoint do for me? As soon as she said “Cicero,” I had completed her portrait. She shared, what Caroline Myss calls, her “tribal” information — her upbringing. She unveiled the texture that layered the colors of her portrait. In turn, I shared my experience in America and why sometimes the eagle flies with broken wings for me. She is just a little more tolerant of my beliefs, and I do my best to leave her alone about hers. (smile) By uprooting our beginnings, we both saw a bit more clearly. Here’s the payoff; we still LOVE(D) each other. We act(ed) lovingly towards each other. For example, she did the repast for my mom’s homecoming. I was there to officiate sending her husband ‘home.’ Through LOVE, she is my friend.
I still cringe at any mention of guns and right winged discourse of those friends Spirit places within my life, BUT I AM intending to love. I respect the right of others to have different opinions from me, as long as they differ RESPECTfully. I CHOOSE not to live in fear. It is an individual effort, which I invite the world to make. It starts with understanding, the capacity to give, to love, and the desire to HEAL. It takes PRACTICE, but I’m goin’ IN!… #GardenSpices
Originally from Chicago, Vicki Goldston, (Victorine), now calls the Shoals area home. She has three children, (including a son-in-love), and 3 grand children, all who add texture to the fabric of her life.
Teaching Conscious Living through God Within You, Vicki is the Pastor Emeritus of Living Spirit Church, an Independent, New Thought ministry, in Florence, AL. Minister Vicki is an Inspirational Speaker; a Contributing Author of a Chicken Soup book, The Miracle of Tithing, by Mark Victor Hansen; and the author of her own book, Be S.A.F.E. (Still, Aware, Faithful, and Excellent). She is the president of Camp Goldston Publishing, LLC. and the founder of Garden Spices Magazine. She facilitates her workshop, Abundance Therapy, and is the Founder/Facilitator of Revelations: A Ministry. She is also a member of the African Dance Troupe, POZA.
Her slogan is: “It’s all good/God” and Minister Vicki believes “love” has the final word.
Interview with David Rushlow
David is the Chaplain at Hospice of the Shoals, and my co-worker. Between his work at the agency, his pulpit ministry at his church, and his farm, David had no time to write an article. I thought it was important to share his viewpoints on diversity. We are counterpoint – the prototype for Garden Spices therapy: He is a Church of Christ minister; I am New Thought. He is conservative; I am liberal. Enough said, the following interview gives his perspective on my article. –Victorine
David, admittedly, you are conservative. Would you ever befriend people with a liberal orientation; with a different culture, or who are gay? And I don’t mean just work relationships or acquaintances. I mean friendship.
It’s a hard question because I moved around all my life and never really had a good friend. I’ve had, you know, acquaintances. I’ve had gay, lesbian acquaintances. I had a good group of guys who worked for me that were all Hispanic. I’ve had them all out to the house. We ate together and had fellowship. We enjoyed each other. But as far as having a really good friend, I just don’t have any really close friends, besides Millie, (David’s wife).
I have a family member who is probably the closest thing that I have to a good friend, and he’s liberal. We have very frank discussions about sexual orientation. His brother is gay and HIV positive. His other brother committed suicide; his mother has mental health issues, and his dad is an alcoholic. We can hold a frank discussion about political and social views.
[For example] We talk about whether sexuality comes from birth or choice. We have this discussion often, which we pretty much agree on – it’s both; my family member thinks some homosexuals choose their lifestyle because of abuse and other things. He’s a very educated clinician and very politically astute. He’s probably my best friend.
How did you feel when you read my article?
The emotions from your story made me think of how diverse we were and are. When I thought and read this story, I thought I had a totally different experience coming through the 70s when they decided to enforce Desegregation.
We lived in Augusta, GA, and I was bussed from an all white neighborhood to a black school. There were absolutely no whites in that school and no blacks in our school. And so…
Everybody was scared.
Right. So, when they [the school system] started busing, they drew the lines, and it just happened that we [our family] were in the part that had to go. It was real interesting. My daddy was a preacher, and we were not real well- to-do, but we did have our house, which was paid for by the church. So, many of the kids in my neighborhood decided to go to private school, and we couldn’t afford a private school. So, we went to CT Walker – was the name of the school. I remember it well.
The first few days we were there, I probably got into two or three fights. I was in school with one other white person, in the grade I was in. My sister was also there. She had a couple of white people there in her class. No Hispanics; just maybe 5 of us white kids in the whole school. I was picked on, bullied and got in fights; was called names, and it was a bad experience.
You got to see what it’s like to be a minority, huh?
Yeah. I was definitely a minority. It was a bad experience.
What did you take from it? Did you decide you didn’t like Black folks after that?
No! For some reason it never occurred to me that it was a black/white thing. I thought it was more socio-economic status. I thought of it more like poor people and middle class people. There was more tension there, not because I was white, but because I had things. I remember I had candy, and there was this one guy whom I would like to call Mike*. Mike came up and took my Snickers bar, and it was on! We were in the middle of the floor fighting. The teacher came, and we both got our hands slapped with a ruler. It never occurred to me that… [it was racial].
One of my best friends in the school was black – I will call him Shawn*. I’d go to Shawn’s house to eat, and Shawn would come to my house to eat, and there was never a black/white thing with Shawn. He had a BB gun. I wasn’t allowed to have one, but I walked after school to Shawn’s house…
Was that the start of your love for guns?
Probably. [Laughs] So, anyway. It never dawned on me NOT to be somebody’s friend because of the color of their skin. In Indiana where we moved from, I had two good friends, and one of them was severely retarded. That’s what they called it back then.
So you have had experiences with diverse friendships.
Yes, but right now in my life, Millie is my best friend. And if I do anything with anybody outside of the church, it’s with my Brother-in-law.
What do we have to do to activate society as a whole to respect differences? We’re both ministers. How do we move society towards acceptance?
Politically speaking, you and I agree, we’ve got to work together. Everything is in a gridlock. It’s Republicans against Democrats, and if Democrats say it’s raining, Republicans say it’s sun shining, and vice versa. It’s ridiculous, and they can’t get anything done in Washington. So, you have executive orders from the President who says, “I don’t care what it takes. I’m gonna get it done because it’s not getting done.”
We need a viable third party, and it’s not the Independents. We need somebody to dethrone the kings; the hierarchy. We need somebody to speak for the people, and not politicians.
Sexual orientation? I think you have to understand where your standard lies. Mine lies within the Bible. Being a Conservative, like many other conservative groups – Baptists, Church of Christ, – our stand is that homosexuality is a sin. But it is no worse sin than adultery, which 75% of our society has been involved in or will be involved in. It’s not worse sin than gossip. In fact, gossip hurts more people than saying, “I’m gay and I’m proud.” Gossip is awful. But Biblically speaking, my stand is that it is wrong. I stand against a lot of things as being wrong.
Culturally speaking, we have a wonderful country. I love the United States, where people are free to choose. It bothers me that we treat someone differently, regardless what it is for, whether it is mental capacity, socio-economic status, or sexual orientation. To treat someone differently because of differences is wrong. God absolutely loves everybody.
So if that’s true, someone gay would be welcomed in your church?
Yes. We’ve talked about this before. We’ve talked with the Elders…
I know you are younger and therefore a bit more socially aware.
I’m educated and try to understand people. America is plagued with problems. We’ve had problems all the time, but moving towards equality and equity, there needs to be understanding and love.
For the sake of this interview, I am simply writing down your answers, but would you agree that the kind of discourse we have weekly makes a difference?
…understanding that my views are different as they relate to gays and the Bible and my understanding that you have a different viewpoint. It does allow us to open the door to love a bit more would you say?
I’m sure of it. You certainly don’t agree with everything I say, and I certainly don’t agree with everything you say, but we listen.
Right. There you go.
It’s cliche’, but we agree to disagree. We hopefully come away with a better understanding of how others feel. And we’re not alone in this universe. We’ve got to live on this planet together.
Yes, but we keep getting pulled back into the same stuff! It hasn’t ended.
That’s what’s hard about being a middle-aged, conservative Republican, white male. We think we are moving forward. For the first time, the USA voted for an African American President.
Speaking of same stuff, my friend, who is white posted about a guy in a business meeting who went on a tirade about how he hates blacks and Obama in the same breath. Unfortunately, so much of the hate stems from the color of Obama’s skin.
And see… I disagree with that. That kind of thinking is out there, and it’s ridiculous. It’s your southern, white… what you know as the Dirty South. But I don’t think that’s common.
But it is the Dirty South, and Obama definitely didn’t win in the South.
But that’s OK. We have work to do. There’s nothing wrong with having work to do everywhere, BUT we have to do it. That’s what this magazine is about… Trying in some small way to make a difference, a shift.
I understand you have people like this guy who says, “I don’t like black people, and I don’t like Obama.” Then, you got people like me that are conservative: that are good, church going people who would have been happy with Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, or Clarence Thomas... we do not have a problem with color. It’s just the thought process of what we consider to be tax and spend Democrats.
Even President Obama says he wishes the Republican party was a respectable party, as in years past. Instead, you have these folks acting crazy...
There’s some crazy Democrats too!
Yes, there are!
Like the guy I told you about who said, “What do I have to vote for? A woman or a black man!” That’s a Democrat!
Stupidity and bigotry really doesn’t know political lines. Unfortunately, there seems to be more Republican, what you call, middle aged, to older, white men…
We call them die-hards because they don’t want to change.
Right, like Yellow Dog Democrats that vote Democrat no matter who runs.
I think that one-on-ones, or even Garden Circles with folks with differing opinions coming together can help us to shift just a bit to that place of understanding and love you were talking about.
Thank you, David.
*Mike and Shawn are fictitious names. NCTPTI (Name changed to protect the innocent.)
David is the Pulpit Minister for The Pine Hill Church of Christ, in Waterloo, AL. He is also Chaplain for Hospice of the Shoals, a Chaplain for ECM Hospital, and is a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist.
David and Millie have two sons, and they live on a farm, which finds them tending animals and riding their horses. They also ride motorcycles.