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A message from Joyce Newmyer, president of Adventist Health Portland

Adventist Health Portland News

My heart was shattered as we watched the video of a man die on camera. Eight minutes and 46 seconds of agony. We feel gutted, and yet our black brothers and sisters ask, “What took you so long?” This isn’t new, but it’s becoming clear that more people are paying attention this time. It’s long past time.

I do not condone violence and destruction (stay with me here), but I understand why it happens. We all know that racism is wrong, yet black people are still dying. Peaceful protests result in no change whatsoever, the frustration explodes, and more lives are in pain.

Yesterday my eight-year-old grandson, with tears in his eyes, asked quietly, “Why do we have to live like this?” What a great question. I told him that we don’t, but we will until we all choose to live differently. We must choose love over hate, love over fear, love over discomfort, love over the unfamiliar, love over every other human tendency. Love for everyone. No exceptions.

Jesus told us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. You know what He didn’t do? He didn’t define who our neighbors are. He didn’t say that our neighbors are the people we go to church with, the people we’re accustomed to, the people who look and worship and act and think and love like He said none of those things. Who is my neighbor? Everyone. No exceptions.

Racism breeds racism. Poverty breeds poverty. Discrimination breeds discrimination. Hate breeds hate. When does it end? When we say it does. We know that one day God will make all things new, all things right, and bring justice to the earth. But until then, how will we love our neighbors? How will we show up in this broken world? How do we ensure that racism has no home at Adventist Health Portland?

I asked Terry Johnsson to help me know what we can do right now. He told me not to be afraid to talk with each other. Sometimes when we are concerned about saying the wrong thing, we say nothing. This leads to awkward silences that might just make the situation worse. Maybe you can ask your co-workers about this. If you work directly with African Americans, check-in with them. Ask them if they want to talk about their pain and grief. Respect their answers. Those of us who are white need to do more listening than talking. Empathy means, “I’m here with you. I see you, I hear you, and I will try to understand because I care.” We must make it clear that we stand with our black brothers and sisters and will not tolerate racism in our house.

Please vow with me to be a part of the change. Let’s decide that we don’t have to live like this. Let’s decide to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Each and every person. No exceptions. Let’s Live God’s Love as our mission requires. It’s the right thing to do.

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