I filmed this video of Congressman John Lewis speaking at http://www.thekingcenter.org/The King Center on the topic of gun violence last Wednesday. When I woke up that morning I had absolutely no idea that I’d be in a room hearing this Great American Hero speaking only a few days after leading the historic sit-in on the floor of the United States Congress.
This isn’t a post about Gun Violence. But it is a post about something that Congressman Lewis talks about often (including in this video). It’s a post about Good Trouble. It turns out that Good Trouble isn’t just the title of an REO Speedwagon Album. It’s something we all need to get ourselves into more often.
So how did I end up capturing this footage? In short: by saying yes to Good Trouble.
Here’s the story:
Monday night I was cooking dinner. I took a peek at my email. In my inbox there was a note from a colleague. It came completely out of the blue and I was so happy to see it. He was writing to let me know that he was in Atlanta for a conference, anticipated having some free time, and wanted to get together.
As background, this colleague and I met at a conference about 7 years ago. We hit it off back then but never really found an opportunity to dive deeper into our many common interests. Something told me that prioritizing spending time with this colleague might get me into Good Trouble.
Having never visited Atlanta, he wanted to see The King Center. So we set a time and planned to grab lunch afterward. En route to his hotel, I took a look at my Twitter feed. Last week I started following Congressman Lewis on Twitter. I saw a tweet from his account saying that he was speaking on Gun Violence at the King Center at 11:30am. The exact time that my colleague and I were planning to be there.
We arrived a few minutes before his speech.
As I listened to him and the other panelists my heart filled with many of the emotions that surround Gun Violence in America. Despair, rage, and disbelief for sure, but also hope and pride. Hope that we’ve reached a tipping point on this important issue. Pride that John Lewis represents the State of Georgia. And pride that my colleague and I, both rabbis, were able to be in the room not only on our own behalf, but wearing our kippot so to speak. Though I learned that Atlanta has the 9th worst gun violence record of any major American city, with an increase this year, I felt proud of my city and the diverse coalition of Good Troublemakers in the room.
I’ve visited the King Center on several occasions, all of them meaningful. I’ve visited with Davis Academy students and their Marist School counterparts as part of an annual day of interfaith community service. I’ve attended and participated in multiple Sunday worship experiences where my song, Rise Up, was performed. On each of these occasions, but on this visit in particular, I felt that I was witnessing the true spirit of the King Center. That spirit is Good Trouble.
After hearing Congressman Lewis, my colleague and I visited the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. We had a lovely chat with the ranger on duty in the sanctuary. After, we visited the grave site. I’m sure among the many strong impressions, that I’ll never forget the 8 or so men with long nets that were cleaning the reflecting pool as if they were in a Buckhead back yard. As we walked, my colleague and I asked one another what we would’ve done if we’d been rabbis during the Civil Rights Era. We wondered what Dr. King would think about some of the many challenges facing the day.
From the King Center we headed to Krog Street Market for a delicious lunch. My colleague persuaded me to have some Jeni’s Ice Cream. It was awesome. Over lunch and ice cream we discussed many of the particular topics that are of interest and concern to us in our professional roles as rabbis working in Jewish Day Schools. Conversations like that are deeply comforting and inspiring.
We made it back to his conference just in time and agreed that our afternoon had been Good Trouble.
The whole experience made me think about what Congressman Lewis means when he uses the phrase “Good Trouble.” Good Trouble means saying “yes” when “yes” means connecting, deepening, opening oneself, and summoning the energy to do something out of the ordinary. Good Trouble means embracing opportunities for honest and thoughtful conversations and participating in socially redemptive activities. Good Trouble means making the most out of each day and asking how your day changed you and how you changed the day. All this and more.
So that’s how I came to capture this footage of John Lewis.
Unless he tells me otherwise, my colleague shall remain nameless since he technically skipped out on an a few hours of his conference! Gooooood Trouble.