Two girls, one black and one white, demonstrated perfectly what our country needs to solve it’s racial conflicts. Politicians and other leaders have failed to bring us all together. Yet two middle school girls succeeded with a simple yet profound kayak ride.
Getting into the kayak took a little doing, as neither had ever ridden in one before. The boat wobbled, they wobbled, but they eventually succeeded in getting into their seats. That’s when the real fun began. At first they were pulling their oars in different directions, causing the kayak to spin and nearly capsize. Some frustration set in, but the girls started communicating with each other and their boat started to glide forward. With each pull of their oars they became more excited, confident, and a team; great sailing, and a great metaphor for solving racial tensions.
Sometimes what’s needed to bring people together is to actually just spend some time with each other. Our two sailors had only each other to contend with for an hour on the lake, enough time to get to know each other and bond. I often have groups of kids at our retreats and camps pair off with people they aren’t used to hanging out with and figure out all the things they have in common. They are amazed to discover a few handfuls of commonalities, and all they had to do was look past superficial differences.
The girls also had a common direction that focused their efforts. Too often these days we are more focused on divisiveness than unity, being right than being close, and anger vs. love. Our mariners didn’t waste time arguing, debating, blaming, or forming yet another commission; they just decided to trust each other and take action. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The old adage “It’s the children who will lead us” fits well here. They do have less baggage than adults, but also more innocence, openness, and kind-heartedness, qualities that our leaders could use more of. Follow their lead and experience more smooth sailing.