Tutu: Stand Up – Stand With

The first time I met Archbishop Desmond Tutu was at an Apartheid protest in Berkeley, California. He was small in stature yet mighty in passion. I had seen great civil rights advocates speak with conviction on television. Witnessing someone in person call forth for justice with such passion was absolutely transformative.

With what felt like every fiber of his being Archbishop Tutu was personally challenging each person there to stand up and stand with those who were being oppressed, abused, mistreated, and lacking the basic dignity of respect.

I felt like I had just been struck by lighting and I began wondering about if, how, where I had stood up for someone. And then my thoughts shifted as I recalled a time when my brother stood up for me and how at the time it completely changed how I thought about him. In this one act, entirely unspoken, he made it clear that regardless of being his annoying little brother, he had my back.

When someone stands up / stands with you, your life is changed. When you stand up / stand with someone, your life is changed. Standing up / standing with another is a sacrificial act that transforms. When a person is willing to go against the flow, including their own fear, to take a stand, they are making the ultimate statement of respect and challenge that others should do likewise.

Anyone who has met Archbishop Tutu will tell you that when he spoke with you his entire focus was on you. Without even saying the words it was clear he was communicating, “I respect you, I stand with you…please do the same.”

I am grateful for the blessing of Archbishop Tutu. His legacy of standing up / standing with others changed countless lives. May each of us whose lives he changed continue to carry forth his legacy.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

  • Martin Niemöller

2 thoughts on “Tutu: Stand Up – Stand With”

  1. Mary Louise Allen

    I too remember that rally and meeting Archbishop Tutu. I will always cherish that memory of this tiny man holding that huge crowd in the Greek Theater in the palm of his hand and preaching the Good News through his very presence. I’ve carried that image with me ever since. And I thank God for the love and joy he showered on everyone.

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