One Small Arrival


Denver March Pow Wow fell at the tail end of a week of sickness in our family. My oldest caught it first and then I spent our spring break in bed. Our three-year-old was just getting over her round when we arrived at the Pow Wow. After exploring the vendors and buying some remembrances for our girls, we settled into the top row of the Denver Coliseum.

As the drum circle entered, followed by the color guard and ambassadors, I felt my daughter snuggle into my arms and slowly get heavier. Soon, she was fast asleep, lulled by the drums and songs.

I’ve been on a journey of learning and unlearning over the past several years. Confronted with my own privilege and role in this system, I’ve turned to books and articles—the most comfortable way I know to dismantle my own misconceptions. While there’s a certain level of discomfort in confronting all the history I didn’t know, it was also done from the safety of my living room chair.

This past year, I’ve been stepping out of that armchair activism. I went on a pilgrimage to dig into the intersectionality of race, faith, and women’s suffrage. I signed up for a class about Indigenous Voices in the Classroom to take my learning from something internal to a place of stretching and accountability.

One part of this journey that I’ve been reminded of more and more is the importance of sitting and listening, especially as a white woman. I want the active experience of learning and doing but sitting back is harder. I can’t check any boxes or see any apparent advancement.

Holding my daughter in the coliseum, I was forced to simply sit and experience the Grand Entrance. I was pinned under the weight of a sleeping three-year-old, unable to move much. The beating drums lulled both of us and I was able to feel the rhythm in ways I wouldn’t have had I needed to be actively parenting my normally energetic and inquisitive daughter.

I watched a dad in the first drum circle holding his own child as he moved around the arena. I watched dancers with their tiny children and kids spinning on their own. I reflected on the fact that, though our cultures and histories are quite different, parenting looks the same.

I think I was in my early twenties when I first heard the phrase, “We don’t arrive until we’ve all arrived.” The phrase made my evangelical heart uncomfortable. I had already started the process of deconstructing and reassembling my childhood faith, but this was the first time I started exploring this more universal approach to faith and justice. How can I arrive until everyone experiences justice? How can I know peace, knowing my neighbors don’t?

Now, I immerse myself in the stories that better round out my own history. At the moment, the Red Couch is discussing Justice and Only Justice by Naim Ateek about Palestinian Liberation Theology. I just finished The Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby about the American church’s complicity in the spread of systemic racism. I’m in the midst of Killers of the Flower Moon by David Gann about the “Reign of Terror” against the Osage Nation in Oklahoma. I’m rounding out the one-sided education I received and am soaking in stories I wish I had known earlier.

I’m also doing, because I think we must actively participate in dismantling systems of injustice. I’m volunteering and taking classes and putting myself in situations where I listen in-person to stories and experiences. I’m approaching all of these with the reminder that I don’t arrive until we’ve all arrived.

Most importantly, I’m remembering to be an active spectator. I work hard at remembering not to let my participation or own story overshadow the point of these conversations. Sitting up in the Coliseum holding my daughter, I felt the weight of this learning and shared humanity. But I also appreciated the posture of actively listening and allowing others to be front and center with their histories.

I left that Pow Wow seemingly unchanged, at least from an outside perspective. We bundled the girls into our car and drove home for a late (and grumpy) lunch. We cleaned our house and made dinner and had screen time and read stories and did all the things we do as a family on a Saturday afternoon. But I carried something in me.

All of these experiences are contributing to small shifts in my thinking and in our family’s collective practices. Sometimes I get tired of these tiny changes, wishing I could make one big, sweeping shift. Sometimes I wish we could have One Grand Arrival.

But it doesn’t happen that way. We arrive one moment at a time, one person at a time, one shift in consciousness at a time.

Right now, these small shifts look like expanding our home library, both for my husband and myself as well as our daughters. It looks like seeking out and attending more events like the Denver March Pow Wow, where we can experience and learn from our Indigenous neighbors. And it looks like sitting still and absorbing these full human experiences.

I have so much to learn. I’m thankful for the posture I had to take during the Grand Entrance—to sit and let the heartbeat of the drums envelop this experience. In doing so, it felt like one small arrival.