I’m doing something new today, something that has been on my mind for quite some time. I’m starting a weekly recurring post called Jen’s Notebook. Each week I’ll write a “letter from the editor” or journal entry of sorts– a collection of my thoughts, what I’m loving right now, my favorite finds, and really whatever else is on my mind. I hope you’ll enjoy the first page from my notebook, which is written during a time in history I hope doesn’t repeat itself.
“No way would that happen today,” Jon and I said to the sandy-haired, completely unconvinced woman sitting across from us in a crowded ice cream shop. A couple of years ago, one of Jon’s colleagues from Washington, DC was in town and we took her out to show her around our state Capitol of Salt Lake City and the conversation shifted to religion. She is Jewish, and we somehow got on the topic of how she and her husband prepped her children for what to do when they encountered hate directed at them– including violence.
In our complete ignorance, we both thought she was being overly cautious. Surely in 2018 no one in the United States would target a group of people in a progressive city like DC simply because they are Jewish. At our response, she matter-of-factly replied that this way of looking at the world– with one eye constantly scanning a crowd, skeptical of her family’s safety, guarded of potential judgment and danger– that was their everyday reality and there, sitting in the middle of our bubble of safety in our home town, we couldn’t really wrap our heads around it. The look on her face was a figurative pat on the head as if to say “Oh you naive souls. You have no idea what hatred is out there,” in the nicest of ways.
Then a few months later, our unthinkable and her worst fears were confirmed when three shooters opened fire in a synagogue in Pittsburgh in an anti-Semitic rage, killing 11 peaceful, unarmed worshippers. I was gutted, horrified, and disbelieving no more. What we say as her abundance of caution was completely warranted. It was my naivety and ignorance that wasn’t.
In the same way my eyes were opened about anti-Semitism, they are opening about racist-driven police brutality and white privilege with the recent, shocking murders of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd. I’m deeply disturbed, outraged, disgusted over things I’ve never even considered in my corner of the world: that I, or someone I love, could be targeted simply because of the color of my skin. Never once have I worried my husband would be hunted down while jogging down the street judged solely on his appearance. Never once have I worried a simple traffic stop or interaction with police could turn deadly on a dime. That is a privilege I have absolutely taken for granted. This description of white privilege opened my mind further, as I realize just how much privilege I have as a white woman growing up in a predominantly white community.
Now, we are experiencing a collective anger. The tolerance for such racists acts is at a boiling point and we all have a choice. Will this be the time things actually change for the better? Will we stand up and fight against injustice, and recognize that racism and inequality exist in 2020? Educate ourselves and our children to promote generation change?
To say that Black Lives Matter is not to say White lives don’t. It’s just that if you’re white, the color of your skin isn’t a judgement, a danger, a hardship you have to overcome.
I have often wondered how many unfair judgments and misperceptions could be solved by truly seeing and hearing someone, understanding where they are coming from and the road they’ve travelled. When I was a working journalist, interview after interview taught me how much alike we are. Much of the political conversation these days is about fear, anger, name-calling and is further driving a wedge between different groups of society. My favorite gatherings are intimate dinners where in-depth discussions can take place. Since I cannot invite everyone over for dinner, I’ll encourage you individually to hold a gathering full of meaningful conversation where true understanding can happen.
A friend recently made me a loaf of this French Bread from A Bountiful Kitchen and I think few foods invite comfort and peace more bread. It is unbelievably delicious and simple and is now among my favorite bread recipes. I invite you to literally and figuratively break bread and delve into what makes someone who they are. A good dinner conversation has a way of leaving everyone at the table better than they were before.
During these uncertain times, our Garden Church at the Stagg Reno has become a place of peace. The Garden Church is what we’ve dubbed our recently constructed enclosed backyard garden (we’ve been documenting it all on instagram and have a highlight reel where you can watch the progress!). There is something soul-calming about walking in, checking on our plants, watering, and teaching our girls about the satisfaction that comes from caring for and growing food. And we can’t wait to make our first meal from vegetables we’ve grown ourselves. We’ve recently photographed and filmed it, and have a whole slew of content coming (including a webisode and all of the details about how we designed and built it).
During this tumultuous time, I hope you can find a place of peace, the gift of being heard and seen, and a good meal with those you love.