MAWL in the City

I’m a MAWL.

I’m a city dweller now, and can think of little that has disappointed me in this move. The parking is sometimes rough, and my driving has deteriorated (yes, that is apparently possible). But otherwise, I love it.

Something that isn’t new is being a middle-aged white lady. White and female are long-time attributes. Middle-aged has been true for more than a decade. In fact, you can argue that “older-aged” is a better term at this juncture. These descriptors aren’t new. But what is new is my need to know more than my world has traditionally known.

In 2019, I’ve intentionally (and not necessarily, I must admit, out of desire) read writers who are different from me. In a time when being different is increasingly viewed as being “other” in the worst sense of the word, I’ve tried to occasionally put myself in situations where I am unfamiliar.

I’ve started in a manner that most appeals to this introvert. So far this year, I’ve read 33 books. Ten have been written by authors of color.

Before you think I am writing this to get an approving nod or am making an overt attempt at bragging, let me be clear: this isn’t admirable or brave by any means. In fact, it’s embarrassingly too little and too late. Not too late in the sense that there is no point trying anymore, but quite literally too late in time. I should have made this effort earlier.

It’s an admission of ignorance and a sheepish recognition that I have typically chosen reading material in a manner that reflected only me, or who I thought of as “me.” All of these ten books were quality, and a few blew me away. Some I’ve appreciated for great writing even if the story didn’t ring true for me or if I couldn’t quite “get” the work or understand the circumstances portrayed.

Of course, it’s not wrong to read that which reflects me or who I think of as me. In fact, it’s a good thing. But if that’s all I read, if that’s all I watch, if that’s my whole world, well, my world isn’t whole. I’m missing a dimension. The song is incomplete. The story lacks a strong plot. The meal is comforting but is underseasoned. Pick your metaphor.

This is the journey of one MAWL who has seen a tiny glimpse of what having difference at the table — difference where you live, work, play, and worship — can bring.

Today I listened to the preaching of a pastor of color, the first I’ve heard on a Sunday in my memory. That hurts to write and is hard to admit. It was great preaching and courageous guidance. And I shouldn’t be surprised. But I was. And it hurts to admit that too.

We have to learn to admit when our little biases, built up over time, smack us in the face. If we don’t admit them, others won’t see that there is a place for them to do so too.

Come back to my blog as I chart the journey of one MAWL who will surely screw up, write poorly, and otherwise be clueless. I’ll at least try to be humorous, but even that will be, no doubt, hit or miss.

And, last, be careful of the MAWL tooling around Baltimore. Her driving is even worse.

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