By Dori Gorman, YMCA Chaplain
In Jordan Kisner's book, "Thin Places," she explains that according to a Celtic proverb, “thin places” are where “the barrier between the physical world and the spiritual world wears thin and becomes porous.” I have experienced several moments in my life that I would call a "thin place." I have felt this at the birth of a baby, on a mountaintop at sunrise, and even in a hospital room filled with love for someone who is dying. I have also felt this in everyday moments through individuals caring for one another, in the midst of unexpected laughter, and through meditation and prayer. For me, Jesus is my thin place.
The Message translation of John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”
I think the Y can also be a thin place, like Jesus. What if the Y can be a place where heaven and earth come together? What if the Y can be a place where the love of God moves into the neighborhood? What if the Y can be generous inside and out, true from start to finish? That is what I hope for.
But I also know that this hope isn't always a reality. For our staff who are furloughed right now, the Y doesn't feel like a thin place. For anyone staying at home right now, the Y is beginning to feel like a memory. For our friends, co-workers and members of color right now, the Y may be held at arm's length, wondering if the thickness of our divisive world will be present in our organization, making it difficult to breathe. As you watch the video below and listen to the voice of one of our remarkable board members, I hope you will begin to hope again. And I hope you will do whatever you can today to find a thin place with God, with each other, and in the YMCA.
Lord, we long to see you move into the neighborhood. We want to feel heaven on earth in a thin place. Please remind us of your presence and hold us close to you. Encourage anyone who is tired. Surround anyone who is lonely. Support anyone who is hurting. And remind us who you have made us to be—your hands and your feet in our neighborhoods. May we meet you in a thin place as we also become a thin place for others. Amen.
The Voice of Terrence Brooks: Association Board Member and DIG Awareness Task Force Co-Lead
A few years ago, the Association Board approved the Inclusion Statement drafted by the Diversity, Inclusion and Global (DIG) team. As a member of both, I, and many other Board and Task Force members, visited our Ys across Middle Tennessee to bring life to these words. In doing so, the conversations presented opportunities to talk about how inclusive we are as an organization. What I realized at the time is that words and plaques have meaning. Meaning that is as present as a rainbow in the sky. Meaning that is as taken for granted as the air we breathe.
The path to inclusion must go beyond stating that we are open to "everyone." The need of one may not resonate to every, and the breath of every may give life to one. As we face a global pandemic and begin to address systemic racism and institutional inequities, I see my role at the Y as a wayfarer. As a Black man, my breath, my voice and my life matter, and I remain committed to being an active member, helping us navigate a collective path forward to advance the lives of all people of color.
The work of leadership, staff and volunteers is multifaceted and simple at the same time. The simplicity begins with breathing life into the conversations we need to have more often. Not just at this moment in time. I had the pleasure of facilitating such a conversation with the Margaret Maddox Y Center Advisory Board recently. Members of the Board shared stories of how systemic racism is impacting their lives, their parents' lives and their children's lives. The words shared were real, revealing, therapeutic and welcomed by all. It was apparent that there is alignment and commitment to more conversations and ultimately the work towards being inclusive. That’s the type of antiracist work I would ask us all to do.
By understanding the struggle of Black Americans to breathe is the struggle for us all to breathe. Our Inclusion Statement is a solid beginning, yet not the last breath we will take for systemic change to serve everyone—and I mean everyone.
Hear from another voice of our Y: Kathy Raglin