The Courageous Conversation

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The Courageous Conversation - Columbia SC Moms BlogI went to bed Thursday night with a weight on my chest, hearing the words of a child who was the same age as my twins, basically telling her mother not to worry, that she was right there. My babies do that … to me … to their older brothers. But it’s when someone has fallen and skinned a knee, or when one is crying because they don’t have ownership of the remote. Anyway, I finally fell asleep in my safe bed and in my safe neighborhood and blocked the images and sounds Facebook had brought to my head and heart.

When I woke up I didn’t look at my phone or social media feed. I left the yard and actually found hope in a beautiful sunrise, exercised with a friend and came back home, ready to face the world. But my husband met me at the door, Twitter feed on fire … and the news of more hate.

All five boys were still sleeping. I couldn’t breathe. I cried. I sobbed. I left for work without seeing their faces, knowing everything I would do over the next eight hours would be for – and because of – them.

I talked with friends who had children. Friends who were sobbing like me. Their skin tones were a rainbow. They fell across the board politically. They had children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. We set up meetings, town halls, protests. We prayed together and loved each other.

And then I went home, and I didn’t know what to say. We ate. I dodged. And then I inhaled and started the most courageous conversation with my boys I’ve ever had.

Boys, you are privileged. You are white and middle class. I will never worry about you walking out in a hoody, unless it’s so cold I think you should wear a jacket instead. I will worry about you being hit by a drunk driver, while other mothers fear their son will be shot for speeding. I know the teachers will love you, and strangers will smile at you for no reason.

Do you understand what’s happening as we talk? News reports are coming in about more violence, more hate. I will not let you listen to those who blame these recent events on something that’s happened in the past few years. I will make you read the history books, and I will make you read books on poverty and oppression.

I will not let you blame this on any one person, any one group, any one race. I will remind you of all the amendments and all the Bible verses … not just a select few. I will remind you all men were created equal, but I will also make you acknowledge all men (and women) are not given equal opportunities or treated equally. 

I will not let you think you understand what your friends of color are feeling, because you have no idea. Just support them, the best you can. All of your lives matter. You are all beautiful, wonderful children.

I will remind you how no one should take another’s life … out of revenge, out of fear, out of cowardice. There are bad people in this world, but there are many more good people. I will not let you believe darkness can ever be conquered by anything but light. 

I will set an example for you by walking away from anyone who wants to justify or make excuses for any of this. I will walk away from anyone who defends any of these horrible actions. I will march, sit and voice my concerns … and I will work to make a change. And whenever it’s possible, I will take you with me.

We hugged as I wiped away tears. My sweet, beautiful boys told me they understood. They told me they’d fight with me. And I exhaled.

I know tonight my privileged children will be safe. I will pray for those who are not, and their mothers.

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Lila Anna is the happily unbalanced mother of five boys. She is an advocate for homeless families, a recovering triathlete, and a sleep deprived 40-something who doesn’t see her yoga mat enough. She was blessed enough to have three wonderful boys (Michael, 14, Colin, 12 and Aidan, 10) … then, after a seven year break and just as she turned 40, got what she calls her “buy one, get one free babies,” Heath and Graeme (now 3). Once fiercely independent, Lila Anna now relies heavily on the help, kindness and understanding of a very loyal group of friends she calls her “village.” This village allows her to dedicate her heart and time to Trinity Housing and St. Lawrence Place – the non-profit for homeless and at-risk families she leads as President/CEO – all the while managing to run a house full of baseball and football schedules and four different carpools. Lila Anna is passionate about all children, especially those living at risk or in poverty. She treats her St. Lawrence Place children as her own, and advocates for them at the State House, at City Hall, or on any given street corner. Her position at Trinity Housing gives her the chance to give homeless families and their children a voice. She has been a guest lecturer at USC and Columbia College, and has presented nationally on the topics of child poverty, education and family homelessness. She is a native of Springfield in rural Orangeburg County, home of the Governor’s Frog Jump (thus her frog tattoo), and is a graduate of USC with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. She got her Master’s from Columbia College in Organizational Change and Leadership, and graduated a few weeks before giving birth to her twins. Her five boys are just like their daddy, “Saint” Brad – fun-loving, even keeled, and incredibly helpful. She enjoys cooking with the help of at least one set of small hands, running (slowly) with friends, and daydreaming about her next trip to Edisto Beach or New York City. One day she hopes to compete in triathlons again in the Athena division (thus her owl tattoo). Most of all, she loves just hanging out with her boys…all six of them. Lila Anna and her boys live in Forest Acres, where they are two blocks from the ballfield and no more than 10 minutes away from everything else. She is happy to share how she embraces her unbalance … and all the fun and love that comes with it.

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