Saturday, July 24, 2010
This is really screwed up.
Shirley Sherrod helped Mr. Spooner (the farmer she referenced in her talk). She got him to a lawyer who should have been fully qualified to help him keep his farm. She did good, right from the beginning.
What she didn't do, right from the beginning, was love Mr. Spooner. What she didn't do, right from the beginning, was take his plight personally, and do everything she could to make things easy for him. But, she got him help. She got him all the help that should have been necessary to save his farm. That was her job, and it was a good thing to do.
But she learned - she learned that it's not enough to just do what should be necessary. You should love people, and you should take their problems personally. And she did - let's keep that in mind. This is not a tale of redemption, where an irresponsible, or unpleasant Shirley Sherrod learned to be helpful - it's where she learned to be more than just helpful, to do more than just "her job".
It's where she learned to love.
That word, love, I guess it's confusing to some. When I use it in this context, I mean to be willing to take on hardship for another. If you're willing to help when it's no skin off your nose, that's not love - it's just basic human decency. But when you're willing to help, even when it's painful or awkward or just plain hard work, that's love.
That's what she learned.
Let's not forget this. This is a woman whose father was murdered, and to whom the white community said "we don't care about that murder; we're not even going to make the murderer go to court over it." And she still chose to help Mr. Spooner, to find him a lawyer who could have filed the right papers to save the farm. She was still doing the right thing; she was still doing her job. But she also followed up - and learned that she would have been better off to do more than her job, to love Mr. Spooner enough to go to the wall for him.
I can't believe how few people seem to understand this narrative, and keep trying to turn Ms. Sherrod's tale of learning greater love for her fellow human beings into some tale of redemption, as if her crime - "only" getting the correct legal help to prevent foreclosure! - was anywhere near the equivalent of the crimes against her.