June 2nd, 2019

Our first stop on the Civil Right bus tour was the International Rights Center and Museum in Greensboro, North Carolina.  The museum is in the Woolworth building where the Greensboro four – David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair Jr. and Joseph McNeil – sat at the lunch counter on February 1, 1960.  They were students at a nearby university, and they were tired of being treated as second-class citizens, so they decided to sit down and order instead of buying their food at the counter and taking it with them out of the store.  The store would not serve them, and they sat there until the store closed.  Then they came back the next day with other students.  The sit-in continued until July when the lunch counter was integrated.  This brave act inspired many others to protest against racial injustices.

When we were in the “Wall of Shame” exhibit, my eyes filled with tears as I looked at photos of lynchings, a little girl whose eyes were burned away, Emmitt Till’s body… I began to be overcome.  Our tour guide let us take in the photos, but ended by saying we don’t have time for guilt and shame, we need empathy.

I recently heard a nurse describe the difference  between sympathy and empathy.  If someone is stuck in a hole in the ground, sympathy leads you to climb into the hole to be with the person, but empathy leads you to go get a ladder and get them out of the hole.

One thing I hope to get out of this experience is how I can move past sympathy to empathy.  What can be done to change injustice instead of just acknowledging it, sitting next to it, and wishing it would go away.  I look forward to seeing ways I can work toward change.

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