I’m not an alcoholic, but I say the serenity prayer.
It’s an Alcoholics Anonymous classic. It goes like this: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and wisdom to know the difference.
The prayer is not trite. It’s lovely. So, with the greatest respect to my friends struggling with addiction, allow me to co-opt your prayer for the sake of our city.
God, grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change about Tacoma: In other words, we’ll never have Seattle’s jobs. Or Bellevue’s school funding. Can we all be honest about that, please?
Courage to change the things we can: In other words, maybe we can get less bad at passing school levies. Maybe we can smell better by fighting for cleaner industries. Maybe we can improve our neighborhoods without gentrifying out all the folks who’ve called those neighborhoods home for generations.
And grant us wisdom to know the difference: In other words, sometimes we should just shut up and go walk the trails at Point Defiance, because ain’t no one else got a park like that.
God, grant us the serenity to accept the fact that the Northwest Detention Center is here in our port. We’re the owners of a private, for-profit prison for immigrants who are just trying to get a tiny piece of the American dream. These immigrants are doing the same thing my grandfather, William Evan Llewellyn, did when he left behind the coal mines in Wales and ended up working in a gravel quarry in Tacoma. They’re given a prison sentence. He was given a job.
Grant us the courage to change the things we can, the way my friend Tim Morton is changing things by training to work with the immigrants released from the Detention Center each week. Once his training is done, Tim will be able to work with Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AID NW) to help connect these dream chasers to transitional housing and provide transportation to their U.S.-based families. AID NW volunteers also greet the newly-released with smiles and let them know that not all Americans support for-profit imprisonment for those seeking a better life.
And grant us the wisdom to know the difference — to understand that the Port of Tacoma is not all private prisons and methanol plants. It’s also a major job center for Tacoma families. With middle-class wages and cool companies that refurbish boats, make waterproof paper and use sustainable timber practices.
Let’s try this prayer again: God, grant us the serenity to accept the fact that homeless people are a permanent part of our city. Help us think the way Nativity House thinks — that these people deserve respect and compassion. Even the ones who will never move off the street.
Give us the courage to change the things we can — to dig into the uncomfortableness of the issue. To support agencies like Nativity House and Tacoma Rescue Mission and local politicians who are working hard to navigate this complex problem.
And grant us the wisdom to think what it would be like if one of our kids were sitting on a corner, holding the cardboard sign and feeling lost and hopeless. And how much we would appreciate the strangers who treated our kids with love — who shared a dollar, a sandwich, or a kind word.
One last time around, and this is a big one: God, grant us the serenity to accept the fact that racism will never fully leave our city. That no matter how many times we share Martin Luther King Jr.’s I Have A Dream speech on Facebook, plenty of ignorant people in Tacoma will choose to judge our children by the color of their skin.
But God, grant me the personal courage — or the plain old common sense — to get off my white butt when there’s a Black Lives Matter event in People’s Park. To walk onto the grass in front of the stage and show solidarity.
Grant us all the good sense to stand shoulder to shoulder with friends and strangers of color and make it clear that we agree with the simplicity of the statement: Black lives matter right here in Tacoma.
Tom Llewellyn of Tacoma is a content marketing director and children’s novelist. He is one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org