Elbow Greased Hope

Does everyone know about elbow grease? Is it a Southern phrase? Do you have to be of a “certain age” to know about it?

For those who may not know, elbow grease is hard work–often literal vigorous scrubbing, as in “you can get those brass plaques clean with some polish and some elbow grease,” but often figuratively, as in “getting that promotion will require some elbow grease on your part.”

Yesterday as I was waiting for the Derek Chauvin verdict to come in, I was so anxious. So I did what I do when I’m anxious. No, not prayer. I started stress eating. While stress eating has been a coping mechanism of mine for some time now, I don’t think I’ve ever employed it while waiting on a trial verdict.

I couldn’t imagine what we would do or where we would go as a country if the verdict were anything less than guilty on all counts. I feared the violence. I hurt for my Black kindred who would be hearing once again that their lives did not matter. I ached for Black mothers who have to create rules and restrictions for their sons (no hoodies, no walking with hands in pockets, no walking in certain all-white neighborhoods after dark).

My stomach was in knots (although that might have been partly caused by the stress eating).

I let out a breath I didn’t even know I was holding when the verdict finally came down. It felt like something powerful had shifted in our country. I felt hope welling up in my heart that maybe we could change after all.

Conviction and accountability is not lasting change. It is a good start (not the finish line) in a long marathon ahead.

I know that feeling of hope I have will not create the change I want to see in this country–it’s gonna take a little elbow grease. It’s going to require some work.

Now, my white self is not about to try and line out how we go about dismantling systemic racism to make this country a place where people of all colors cannot only survive, but thrive. First of all, I really don’t know, and second of all, I’m pretty sure we don’t need to take our cues on racial justice from people who look like me.

But, I will tell you where I’ll be employing my elbow grease.

Listening and learning.

Books. Seminars. Music. Theater. Even Instagram and TikTok. Learning from, listening to and believing people of color. Reinforcing that just because I haven’t seen or experienced something doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

Showing up.

When the communities I am a part of call for the community to gather for support, protest or education, I’m going to make every effort to show up. Racism is not a Black issue. It is a human issue. For all lives to truly matter, then Black Lives (and Brown lives and Asian lives and Native American lives) must be valued and honored.

Keep going.

If you look like me, and you’re tired of hearing and talking about systemic racism…suck it up, buttercup. If you think you’re tired, don’t even think about saying it in front of people of color who have been fighting this fight since before some of us knew there was anything to fight.

If you look like me and you're tired of hearing and talking about systemic racism…suck it up, buttercup. People of color have been fighting this fight since before some of us knew there was anything to fight. #blacklivesmatter… Click To Tweet

Hope is a great feeling, but hope is not a plan. However, hope can fuel the elbow grease we’re gonna need to affect the change we want to see in the world.

So limber up. Have your ibuprofen ready. Building the kind of world God calls us to create is going to take a little (or a lot) of elbow grease.

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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