the importance of difficult conversations & the necessity of sanctuary

Oh, my friends: last night, Marcus and I attending something that was really, really special.

I've mentioned my friend Cheryl before, the owner of Stash, gorgeous leather bags that are all handmade in a beautiful old mattress factory in Sealy Texas.  Cheryl is one of the amazing women that will be featured in my book, because if there's one thing she knows, it's how to create a space where everyone around her -- her friends, her employees, her family -- can thrive.  And one of the ways she does this is by hosting live music events in the factory: they don't happen very often, but when she has them, they're magical.  And this weekend, she hosted a special one to celebrate her 10-year anniversary -- it was a "Stash Family Dinner," with food prepared by James Beard-nominated Houston chef Monica Pope, and a live acoustic performance by the amazing singer-songwriter, Lisa Morales.

The evening was gorgeous:  a cold front finally made its way to Houston, and the weather was crisp and clear.  And about 85 people, made up of friends, family, employees and die-hard Stash fans sat around the table, warmed by great food, bourbon beverages and a fire pit.  And as we sat together family-style on the long tables into the evening, illuminated by twinkle lights, and warm conversation, I could feel the stresses of the previous couple of weeks melt away.  


I kept saying, "I'm so happy.  I'm so happy."

So much fun, and it was so amazing to be in the company of such warm, welcoming people.  I was so grateful we were there.

And honestly?  This wonderful night got me thinking.

As it happens, this week America will celebrate Thanksgiving, the first Thanksgiving after a historically contentious campaign season, and an election where an unapologetic bigot was elected president.  This means that all over America, families are going to be getting together at big tables, having big meals  -- and judging from the election stats, there will be likely be folks sitting across from each other who voted for opposite parties.  And some of the conversations at those tables might become heated.

My hope for all of us, my friends & anti-discrimination, anti-bigotry allies, is that we don't shy away from these conversations.  Going quiet when bigotry raises its ugly head is, frankly, how we got into this mess in the first place.  But don't worry, I've got your back:  the Southern Poverty Law Center has put together an amazing resource for how to deal with casual bigotry that we might come across in our day-to-day lives, without getting emotional about it.  It's a great article to look at ahead of your Thanksgiving dinner -- forewarned is forearmed, my friends.

Bur ironically, last night also has me thinking about the exact opposite:  the necessity of sanctuary.  All over the internet I've been hearing that we need to be brave about having these conversations -- and obviously, as evidenced by my previous paragraph, I agree.  But I'm also reading a lot about avoiding being in an "echo chamber" -- articles that make the point that speaking to only like-minded friends and family doesn't actually change anything for the better.  And while this may be in true in part, I think it ignores the importance of self-care, and of sanctuary. I know that for me, the only way I can be courageous in tough conversations is by occasionally having somewhere to retreat, friends who feel safe.

And so my second hope for all of us here in the United States, as we enter into this holiday weekend, is that at some point you create some sanctuary:  you have some time together with folks who feel safe.  Be sure to connect with those folks during the next week or so, whether it's at your Thanksgiving celebration or on some other day.  Create a small gathering at your home, or meet friends for coffee or even happy hour.  Do something with the friends who feel safe.  

So thanks to lovely Cheryl for creating that sort of sanctuary last night for so many of her friends, family and coworkers -- folks who felt safe.  It was a lovely reminder that there is so much good in the world.

And to all of you, have a wonderful week.  We're headed out of town for the holiday, spending time with friends who feel like family.  With luck, I'll have some great stories and images to share when we return.

In the meantime, may we all be both courageous and safe.