|Earlier this week a Christian woman with a beautiful spirit called me with a question. She said, “What is the Church to learn from Whitney?” I asked her what she meant. She said, “Well, she grew up in a Christian home.” She knew God. “She had money.” She was beautiful. And yet, she was a drug addict. And now she is dead. I have thought about Whitney Houston. Whitney with a capital W. We rooted for her, didn’t we? We followed her through her ups and downs, and our hearts broke each time she slipped or stumbled. And we trusted that a child trained up right would eventually return to the way she was brought up. But Whitney ran out of time. And some of us are wondering, “Where do broken hearts go?” But thinking of Whitney, I couldn’t help thinking about all the lower case whitneys. The whitneys who walk the streets of our towns and cities not knowing where they will lay down at night. The whitneys who trade sex for money. The whitneys who have 3 or 4 children before they’re 25. The whitney who got punched by her boyfriend or her husband last night. While we cry over big Whitney and ask God why, I hope we will remember there are women all around us in trouble, just as Whitney was. Women who “almost had it all.” An honor roll girl on her way to college and then she has a baby. She dreamed of being a doctor and now all she has is a nightmare life with a baby and no husband. Just a baby daddy.|
Or the woman who’s “saving all her love” for a married man. Or the whitney who “just wanted to dance with somebody” but got raped instead. You couldn’t help Whitney with a capital W, but there are thousands of lower case Whitneys right where you live that you can do something about. All you need is “one moment in time.” Kevin Costner said at her funeral, that she wondered, “Am I good enough, am I pretty enough, will they like me?” Whitney with a capital W had the same concerns as all of us lower case whitneys. And as a Black woman, her insecurities were even greater, for we have always been called ugly and nappy headed and thick lipped and wide nosed. Just like Whitney, we know the address of Heartbreak Hotel. And though we might go there, we can’t stay there. For we have work to do. Anna Julia Cooper wrote, “Only the Black woman can say, “when and where I enter, in the quiet, undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and with suing or special patronage, then and there the whole…race enters with me.” For those of you who may be unfamiliar with her legacy, Dr. Cooper was the pioneering African American author, educator and social activist who said in the late nineteenth century that the educational, moral and spiritual progress of Black women would be the force for change in Black communities across the nation and the world. Anna Julia was right. But that was back in the day when women picked children up for Sunday School. Before we were so busy. At the mall. And the nail shop. And the Bingo parlor. And the club. And the gambling boat. On the phone. With our man. Doing me. Black women have been the bridge everybody walked across to get to where they needed to go, but somewhere along the way, we decided it is all about “me.” And the beloved community suffers. When we got to sit at the lunch counter at Walgreen’s we thought the struggle was over. It is not over. And on this day, I hope we mourn both whitney with a capital W and lower case Whitney.
Luke 6.27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
So today, I pray you will make up in your mind to take the focus off you and what you want and the way you like it and put it on somebody who needs you. I pray you will decide to help somebody along the way. Not your family, and not your friends. The scripture says that anybody can do that. God doesn’t reward us for helping the folk we love. God commands that we love the stranger, the sojourner. You might think you can’t do it, but I say “You don’t know your own strength.” Help somebody and don’t expect anything back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The songwriter writes, If I can help somebody, as I pass along. If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song, If I can show somebody, she is travelling wrong. Then my living shall not be in vain. If I can do my duty, as all ought If I can bring that duty to a world that’s lost. If I can spread a love message that the Master taught. Then my living shall not be in vain.
Whitney ran out of time. My prayer is we will find the time to reclaim the beloved community.