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Sheri Ryan: Let’s all do better

Anyone who truly knows me knows that I am painfully shy around people who I do not know and that I suffer from social anxiety. Well, today, after seeing a post that my daughter Cassidy shared regarding a group of people were “protesting” across the street from Sapore in Lehighton, something came over me and I felt compelled to go.

I have never been to a protest, as best as my feeble mind can remember, and quite frankly I am scared of getting the ’Rona, but I had to go. The images and videos that we all have seen on social media have been so upsetting and deeply disturbing that I was very reluctant to step out of my comfort zone and into the unknown. I am glad I did.

I am hesitant to call this a protest because what it really was, was a desperate plea for all of us to take a look at ourselves and change that which is ugly and evil and to implore those around us to do the same. It was also a most beautiful display of unity. One thing that blew my mind was how they were all shouting for peace to every car that passed by and followed that up with “We love you.”

I was also overwhelmed by the number of cars that drove by holding their hands up in solidarity and beeping their horns. For those that didn’t or wouldn’t, they shouted “We love you too” or “We love you anyway!” Always with a big smile on their face. And man, could you feel the love. I want to give huge shout out and a huge “thank you” to the gentleman in the first picture.

I think he said his name is Reggie and, sir, if I got your name wrong, I sincerely apologize. This gentleman, who walked with crutches, made it a point to walk over to me from the middle of the group and thank me for standing with them. I told him how I had never been to a protest before and how I was out of my comfort zone and he replied by telling me that God wanted me to be there today. He started talking to me about all that was going on and why they were having a peaceful protest.

Then he started talking about Black Lives Matter. I’m not going to lie, I have at times viewed BLM as a racist statement against whites. As if we don’t matter, as if white people do not suffer brutality at the hands of police officers. But rather than allowing those thoughts to pop into my mind or uttering a word, I did one of the things I promised myself I would do today; I would LISTEN.

He explained that of course, all lives matter and of course my life matters, but that the reality is that racism is rampant and there is so much hatred and black people are dying.

As he continued to speak to me I felt so many emotions. I tried very hard not to cry. He just wants to be equal, he just wants the hatred and the killing to stop. He just wants peace and for us to love one another. I wanted so much to hug him, but that ’Rona fear is real, though.

Instead I told him I was sorry. Sorry for the way he is treated, sorry for all that is happening and sorry for anything and everything I have ever said or done to add to the problem. He made me a better person today.

At one point a state police car drove past and then pulled off the road and sat there for a few minutes. Everyone was a little concerned as to what might happen. Then he turned around and came back toward the group. He was stopped in line with other cars at the red light and started beeping his horn in support!

He rolled down his window and thanked them for the peaceful protest and to keep up the good work. They responded with “We love you!” and I am 99% sure he said, “I love you too.” I was overwhelmed with emotion. I really can’t even accurately describe it.

After he left, someone said something to the effect of “That’s a win.” And it was. So here is the thing, not all blacks are thugs, not all whites are racist and not all cops are bad … but too many are, and we all, all of us, have to work together and stand beside one another to make it stop!

This is not the way I want my grandchildren or any child to grow up - with hatred and fear and death. We must make ourselves accountable and hold others accountable in the right way, whatever that is, and we have to find that right way, now.

Fast forward to the last picture. I really did not want my picture taken as I am used to being the one behind camera, but I reluctantly conceded.

Anyway, if you really know me then you know of the severe joint and body pain I suffer with day in and day out. I told Cassidy that the other thing I felt compelled to do was to take a knee. She cautioned me against it (knowing that it would be hard for me to get up and that I would most likely fall in the process) and said that she did not want me to get hurt.

I promised myself that I would do it for as long as I could but for no less than the 9 (almost) minutes that George Floyd had a knee on the back of his neck. When I couldn’t do it anymore, I struggled to get up and failed and fell backward, rather epically, I might add. At the time only my pride was hurt but nobody laughed (and I am sure it was a funny sight to see) and some beautiful soul rushed to help me up.

After discussing the entire experience with Cassidy, she asked me if I was OK after my fall. I told her that my neck is hurting quite a bit, but nothing like the pain that Mr. Floyd endured. Please, let’s all do so much better.

Sheri Ryan at the protest.