Dear Compass Family,
I am writing you to share my thoughts about the state of affairs in our world and our small corner of it at Compass. These are scary and troubling times. For the past three months we’ve battled the fear of the COVID-19 pandemic, loneliness as we shelter-in-place, the sudden economic downturn, and an uncertain future. And now, for the past several days, we’ve experienced civil unrest on a national scale that hasn’t been seen in decades, and we are all concerned.
When George Floyd was killed on May 25th by Minneapolis police officers, every American with a good heart was horrified, but many had a deeper, more personal reaction. Millions of us didn’t just see a story on the news, but they saw themselves, and once again felt the fear and anger they felt before. The experience of police brutality and the ongoing fear of injustice has long been common place for many of our fellow Americans for far too long. My kid’s own youth pastor in Redding, California, a young African American man, has shared with me his own experiences of fear and intimidation when simply being pulled over by a police officer. But even though I grew up on the border of Long Beach and Compton, California, and was nearly a victim of a gang related shooting as a teenager, as a white man I still cannot relate to the depth of the pain and anger of my friends who watch what happened to Mr. Floyd, and think, “That could be me or my son, or husband, or father.”
I am not qualified to entirely sum up what we are witnessing right now, but it is clear that much of it is a large scale cry of people to recognize our history and their determination to see changes which will enable them to feel safe. It seems to me to be an inflection point of years of frustration, exasperated by COVID-19, financial stress, and a sense of hopelessness. We have seen riots before, and sadly, when we see the video of the murder in Minneapolis, we can see that here we are again, people feeling threatened and victimized.
This is not to say America has not improved over time; it has. I am proud of the fact that in my lifetime we elected a man to be president who 175 years ago could have been the victim of radical injustice, but in our day rose to be the primary enforcer of justice in the world. Furthermore, all one needs to do is look at the contrast in the racial composition of crowds today versus the past. There is a kaleidoscope of Americans bound together, all demanding justice and equity for every person. It’s that kind of empathy, attempting to see the world through the eyes and experiences of another, which will get us through the myriad of challenges, and I stand with my African American friends and say that I hurt with you.
Not coincidentally, at Compass we are in a unique position to help our communities work through these difficult issues, because we stand beside a people group who likewise has been victimized by centuries of neglect, abuse, mocking, and even murder: people with developmental disabilities. Through our actions and engagement, we have the privilege of working hard to ensure that folks with disabilities are given the same access to public spaces as others. We support them as they live the independent lives to which they are entitled, as opposed to seeing them shipped off to a cold institution, as was commonplace just a generation ago. Our culture at Compass is strong in empowering those who need help, and I believe we can use that same spirit to lift up other fellow Americans, too.
So for now, if you feel frustrated or alone and want to talk, and you don’t know if you have a safe and trained person to talk to, please take advantage of our Employee Assistance Program (EAP); it’s free to every Compass team member. You can reach out to HR for the info. If you want spiritual guidance or prayer and don’t have a pastor, priest, or other religious leader to turn to, Compass has a licensed minister on call, Denny Taylor, who would love to listen and pray with or for you (530-560-5003). Any calls to these resources will be kept completely confidential. And of course you can talk to your CF or ILSM or any of our leaders in our offices, should you need to connect.
As for Sadie and myself, we will continue to listen to the hurting, especially those at Compass who feel this on a personal level, and pray for healing in our land in the hopes that one day no one will feel unjustly threatened or judged.