Being “Beautifully Human”: Our Path to Change
Saying the past year has given us all much to think about would be a colossal understatement. Yet, the new year brought with it another inconceivable event that caught our collective breath.
I was sitting at my desk on the afternoon of January 6th, mowing through my to-do list, when my wife peered into my office to find out if I’d learned about the “madness” happening in Washington, D.C. I followed her into the den and was ambushed by CNN’s live coverage of the riot at the Capitol building. I remember thinking “madness” was the right word for it. Yet, it also just scratched the surface.
I recalled the number of uncomfortable conversations my wife and I were forced to have with our daughters (our youngest is only six years old) about race, our country’s history, and the meaning behind the symbols, words, and actions they were exposed to over the past year alone. I started to think about the words I’d need to find to explain this latest blight on the idea of a more perfect union.
I thought about the barely teenage African American boy I found crying on my front lawn this past summer, after he’d been threatened and nearly rundown in his own neighborhood by a Caucasian man in an SUV. I thought about whether or not my attempt to console him and get him safely home felt like an empty promise of a human family.
I thought about George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Oscar Grant. Then, I thought about the names and events that, as a child, widened my eyes to the issues of race and social injustice, like Abner Louima, Yusef Hawkins, and Rodney King. A well of emotion began within me as I continued to stare at the TV screen.
I thought about the feeling I had years ago when, after my Amtrak ride home from a business meeting in New York, I was suddenly surrounded by five armed DEA agents who profiled me as a potential drug mule. I thought about all the ways that event could have ended differently.
I thought about the op-ed I posted to Facebook the day after Barack Obama’s historic presidential election win: how his presidency symbolized more than just a turning of a page in America, but a new chapter that we all committed to writing together.
Then, I thought about how quickly and easily that light seemed to be snuffed out before my oldest daughter—who was still seven months from being born when my wife and I stood with thousands at the National Mall on Inauguration Day 2009—would be old enough to really take notice of the larger world in which she lived.
“What can I possibly say to make sense of this,” I thought to myself.
Then, oddly enough, I thought about September 11, 2001: being in the middle of one of the most horrifying events we had ever seen on American soil, but also witnessing the awesome potential in us as we offered shoulders of consolation to strangers, or raced to help our human brothers and sisters.
This carousel of thoughts, thankfully, spun me back to what renowned entertainer, Jill Scott refers to as being “beautifully human.” Then it became clear to me: continuing to help our daughters embrace what it is to be “beautifully human” is the only thing that makes sense. It continues to be my chance of ensuring that I do not fail them.
For me, being “beautifully human” means we recognize and honor each other as human beings first and, no matter how unlike we are, be able to remain grounded by this simple idea. More than this, being “beautifully human” means we welcome the dual role of student and teacher each day—the opportunity to learn from our differences and become more balanced souls.
The idea of being “beautifully human” is what helps me explain these potentially life-shaping events to my children without hardening their wonderfully warm hearts…or my own. It’s what helps me to instill confidence and courage in them, rather than fear. The idea of being “beautifully human” stirs my daughters’ zeal for exploring their world rather than sharpening a reflex to recoil from it. It’s what allows them to continue to be dreamers, as opposed to only seeing the possible nightmares.
Yes, the past year has given me much to think about, but I will continue to do whatever I must to spin back to being comfortable with being “beautifully human.” My oldest daughter never did stumble onto that CNN broadcast, so my wife and I caught a break. Thank goodness for math homework.
However, when we need to brace for that next uncomfortable conversation, I am truly thankful that I feel confident about where I’d begin.
Moshe is an AVP of Client Services at Snow.