Hold the Vision, Trust the Process

By: Isaiah M. Oliver

I sat on the couch in my man cave, wrestling with a viral infection that thankfully was not Covid or the flu. It had been two days of lingering headaches, body aches, and some congestion. It was four days before Christmas and just when I thought I would get some rest, my kids came running down the stairs. My youngest daughter, Chelyn, and my baby boy, Isaiah, could care less about daddy being sick. Just like that, I am sitting up watching Gracie’s corner as if I am not hurting at all. My kids are happy. They are glued to the screen, singing, and dancing while I am trying to figure out how to kick “the crud.”

My strong, amazing, and energetic boy jumps off the couch. I hear a snap. He begins to cry. I pick Isaiah up, cradle him in my arms, and begin to speak softly in his ear, “You good, big boy?” He responds: “No, my leg hurts.” At this moment I become “daddy doctor” and proceed to check out the injured kiddo. I moved his right leg back and forth. It is all good. I take his left leg and repeat the check by moving it forward and back. It is all good too. I immediately yelled to mom. “He hurt his leg, but he’s all good, just crying a little bit.” I cannot afford to be seen as irresponsible. Mom responds, “Ok,” and goes back to cleaning. We are expecting company for the holidays. The house is never clean enough for guests when you have four kids. I hold him close in my arms hoping he feels better as we head back to the couch. I attempted to reposition him for ease of carrying before our short walk to the man cave. His left leg bends in half. I was shocked. It should not move like that. It is broken. I immediately scream to mom, “Hey, it’s not OK. We have to go to the hospital.” We grabbed both kids and jumped in the truck for the short trip to the hospital, although it felt like the trip took hours. The pain increases for my big boy during the ride and by the time we land at the pediatric emergency, his pain is at its apex.

I am overwhelmed with guilt. I should never have turned on the TV. Did I say to stop jumping on the couch? Did I space out in the moment? Was I even paying attention? Why did I move his leg? I knew none of those questions or answers would change a thing. I was in the emergency room. Helpless. My only prayer was, “God give me the pain, my big boy doesn’t deserve this.” While most folks were finishing gift wrapping, eating a late-night snack, or bunkering down to prepare for whatever “Mother Nature” had planned for us, the Oliver parents were bundled up on a hospital cot awaiting a 6 a.m. ortho procedure. Our Bobo broke his femur, and it was a bad break. I was not in control. I wanted this fixed, but all I could do was trust the process.

The orthopedic doctor told us what to expect: Ma’am, Sir, your big boy is going to have a body cast that goes from mid-waist to his ankle. It will have a cut out to make sure that he can relieve himself and he will have this on for 5 to 8 weeks. The good news is in 12 months, you will not even know where the break happened. The moment we realign this bone and create the conditions for healing, it will naturally do what it should.

“But where do you cut him? How do you fix it?” I asked.

The doctor replied: “The casting is the fix. We remove barriers to natural healing by protecting the damaged leg. That will create space for the human body to do what it does.”

Both, relieved and confused, we must trust the process…

Humans have the ability to heal. We simply need to create the right environment and trust the process. And it is true for more than our physical healing.

When my Isaiah suffered an injury, he did not deserve it and when I watched the doctors provide the miracles of modern medicine, it reminded me of my experience with the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation Initiative. Five years ago, the Community Foundation of Greater Flint partnered with this comprehensive, national, and community-based process, which was launched by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Today, we are often asked: “So what’s going on with that racism initiative? Did you fix it? Did you eradicate racism?”

Of course not. Unlike Bobo’s injury, TRHT is more than a 12-month process. However, like Bobo, we have learned through our engagement with the project that we as humans are self-healing, self-regenerating and self-maintaining. Not surprisingly, the architect of TRHT, Dr. Gail Christopher, is a holistic doctor, licensed naturopath, connective tissue specialist, and nutritionist. Her clinical training and our approach to the work include a commitment to look at how we create conditions that interfere with humans’ natural self-healing mechanisms.

A fundamental human need is a connection and relationship. Racism is a force that separates us and isolates us from one another. It is contradictory to who we are, and it creates stress. To deal with this stress, we turn to defense mechanisms. This defense state burdens our bodies and depletes our energy. How can we mitigate this stress? What is the prescription? I believe TRHT is the answer. Truth and reconciliation are about honesty. They are about an authentic reckoning. They are about authentic telling, understanding, and listening.

Racial healing comes when we acknowledge that any belief in the hierarchy of human values based on race is racist. The hierarchy is grounded in an archaic concept of a taxonomy of humanity from the 1600s. It divided humanity into groups based on their physical characteristics and their geographic place of origin. Carl Linnaeus was the creator of the original taxonomy for the human family. He was a botanist, and he gave us many of the taxonomies we still live with today in plants and other aspects of biology. His contemporaries Emmanuel Kant and others began to ascribe personality or character traits to the hierarchy. This was the basis of scientific racism. What we know today is that this contrived racial hierarchy is inaccurate, inappropriate, and offensive. It has no place in the 21st century. We must actively work to jettison the belief that there is a hierarchy of human values.

To achieve success and to heal, we must trust the process. We must trust our healing circles to lift what unites us, rather than what divides us. We must trust that when we create this environment, our healing will happen naturally, just like little Bobo’s bones. I have been blessed to live in a community willing to put in the time and effort. For that reason, I am certain we will see progress. We have gone through a journey of discovering, respecting, and honoring the unique experiences of the individuals that make up our community. At the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, we believe everyone in our community can benefit from participating in racial healing and that by participating in healing circles we can create deep, productive relationships that will help our community heal from the effects of racism and racial inequities. The responsibility belongs to all of us. Together.

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The Community Foundation of Greater Flint partners and leads by influencing and connecting generosity to Genesee County needs. For Good. For Ever. For Everyone.