By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli
The pandemic has changed the world as we know it forever. As we attempt to go back to a new normal, many of us will not look at life in the same way. Many families are closer. So many have reassessed what is important and who is important. The workplace has changed. School, colleges, universities will never be the same.
Hopefully these new challenges will empower us to become the best version of ourselves. It has been amazing driving through Port Jefferson Village and seeing so many families sitting on their porches and lawns actually talking and laughing with each other and not texting!
In an instant, we in college education went from in-class human contact to a virtual classroom. It’s a whole new experience, a whole different way of teaching and learning.
Life is dynamic. We need to be more flexible and more willing to adapt to change. Too often we get set in a pattern of doing and thinking that is not always life-giving.
In recent weeks the already challenging landscape became more toxic with the unfortunate and tragic loss of life at the hands of law enforcement. This social unrest has given birth to the Black Lives Matter Movement. This movement has spread across the country challenging all fair-minded people to think about systemic racism and discrimination.
On June 18, students from Stony Brook University organized a Black Lives Matters protest in Port Jefferson. We were almost 400 strong as we met at the Port Jefferson train station. We walked down Main Street to Village Hall. We were White, Black, Latino, Asian and Indian chanting and talking. When we reached Infant Jesus Church, we were asked to kneel. The silence was deafening.
What was amazing during those moments of silence were two small children standing in front of me hugging each other; one was black, the other was white. When they turned around and I could see their faces, they both had on t-shirts that said “All Life Matters.” As we continued to walk, I could not help but think about that statement. Blacks, browns, documented, undocumented, Asians, Indians, Native Americans, whites, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people — they all matter.
This is a powerful moment in history. We need to confront systemic prejudice and discrimination everywhere. Most religions call us to a higher standard, but are equally guilty of discrimination, oppression and prejudice. Our schools and universities, law enforcement in almost every social entity that deals with people needs to step back and look at how they do what they do.
The social unrest confronting our nation is an opportunity for systemic change and reform across the spectrum of all human interactions; every system needs to be held accountable. No one should ever be above that standard.
When we arrived at Village Hall, the speakers thanked the police for their service and thanked all of us for standing together in solidarity. As I left, I did the same. I thanked each police officer for his or her service. I also realized that we need to see with different eyes; we need to hear and listen with different ears. As Gandhi said, we must “be the change that we wish to see in the world!”
Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.