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  • Writer's pictureAshley Thomas

Radical Acceptance

Sunshine (aka Cassandra) was the first member I met. She has radically changed my life in more ways than I can put to words.

I am drawn to people who are different than me. I am curious. I want to know what I don’t know about myself: my own prejudices, bias’ and assumptions. I love to learn.

I sat in a recent gathering and heard a Pastor use the phrase “Radical Acceptance”. I am not really sure what else he said after that because that phrase sort of stuck. I was days away from our (Hope Street’s) third annual Family Reunion and anticipating the different people (all 340) that would gather together to celebrate and learn more about a place I love.

We opened the evening of the event to a song from The Greatest Showman. One of my favorite movies; if you haven’t seen it - do yourself a favor and watch it. The first time I saw the film I wept through the whole thing. I even went to the movie less than 24 hours later to again capture the underlying theme. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what to call it at the time but I believe it is radical acceptance. It is the ability to invite the “other” in but also acknowledge that you too are an “other” and in desperate need of a reality check.

Almost 7 years ago I took a field trip to the “hood”; I was scared, disenfranchised and removed from the people and the problems. Looking back now I know that my heart was changed, but my ability to grow happened because of the radical acceptance of me. Radical acceptance by the poor. Radical acceptance by the addicted. Radical acceptance from broken people. And in this I found out I was broken too. They didn’t need one more person to swoop in and tell them what they did wrong; but I needed someone to wake me up to the reality that my view of them was completely inaccurate.

You have the choice to create or become part of a community where it is safe to know and be known by one another. I would argue that we crave this. We want to bump shoulders with people who are different, but we are unsure of the cost. What if I say something wrong ? What if they just want my money? What if I get hurt - emotionally or physically?

There is a risk. All of those things may come to fruition. But what is the risk if you don’t?

True transformation takes place when we can look across the table and see it’s not just you who has accepted the other but the other has in turn accepted you. We can create agendas, well planned programs and to-do lists; but maybe it is time to simply ask the question: how am I doing with acknowledging my own need? Is it possible that it will come from someone I think I need to help? There’s a special place on 26th and Capitol that has figured out how to radically accept anyone with any mess and simply be present. That’s the sort of place I want to always find myself.

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