It's ironic that the subtitle for the book is "Three Urgent Prophetic Tasks", because when I get the book out to read, reading it becomes anything but urgent.
There's this thing about working at Union Coffee that's unique compared to most United Methodist churches, outside of perhaps Wesley Foundations. It's open to the public, 7am to 9pm (or 10) every day. And my office is the shop itself. There are quiet corners, sure, yet, every time I pick one of those corners, a couch or comfy chair, and get Bruggemann out, a neighbor asks me something.
And it's awesome.
Two of the major core values of Union Coffee are story telling and boundary breaking (the others are sanctuary, sustainability, quality, and generosity). The picture above is of our most recent worship series ... Two short weeks to unpack the topic of privilege ... What we can do about it and what we can do with it. This picture was out in the form of display cards on the tables of the shop. Let me tell you, if you advertise a conversation on privilege, people are going to have things to say and stories to tell.
So, a story from last week that called me to check my privilege and marvel at the work God is doing in bringing this remarkable community together.
Last Sunday I got my book out an hour before it was time to flip the shop for worship. I approached one of the corners near our stage with a couple of big couches. I asked the man who would be sitting across from me if the seat was taken, and we proceeded to chat for an hour. As I sat down, he asked me what the place was about, noticing our privilege cards on the table. Things went on from there.
It was the first time he had ventured into Union. His wife's nonprofit was meeting in one of our conference rooms and he was just hanging out. Let's call him C, and his wife S.
I learned a lot about C during our conversation. He's in the National Guard and just finished his history degree at UNT and is planning on shifting to a career in the army. He'll be attending officers training school shortly.
He's also African American. As is his wife. He has a three-year-old daughter and another on the way this September. He'll likely miss the birth of his second child due to a training deployment that he's being called to lead.
We talked a bit about the series on privilege that we were in. We talked about the two weeks prior that Union spent sharing in a conversation on race and faith in the wake of the shootings of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling, and the shootings of the DPD officers.
As we got deeper into things he shared with me a new truth in his life: he's afraid for his family, as a black American.
He said that he'd never, ever, felt this way. This is an articulate, educated, soldier, mind you. But, he's afraid for his family, when he looks at the current cultural divide in our country.
A couple of weeks prior to our meeting at Union, he and his wife had gone shopping at a nice little shop in Dallas. He tried on a many things, putting back what he didn’t want (which is a gift to any sales associate). He ended up purchasing over $200 in clothes by the end of things. He was polite and respectful to the staff and had a great experience. But, as he was leaving, he noticed a police officer pulling around the store. C took note of it, but he and his wife got into their car and began to head home. A few minutes later not one, but three, police cars pull him over.
Three police cars to pull over he and his wife.
The officer tells him that his turn signal is out and asks for his license and registration. After running everything, the officer returns and C politely asks, “Why was I really pulled over?”
It turns out that the store accused C and S of shoplifting. After a minute more, C and S were let off with a warning, the officer(s) knowing that it was a racially motivated report. C didn't complain about the officers. He said that they were respectful because he was respectful. But ...
This would never happen to me, a white man. It just wouldn’t. If I had behaved and purchased as he had at any given store, there is no way the police would be called on me.
I thanked him for sharing his story. I met his sweet wife just a few minutes later. I’ve never heard a story like theirs told within the walls of another church.
I'm in a place, though, where I don't just hear those stories. I am told them. I'm checking my privilege.