By Matt Gordon
I helped with an event last week. I’m not good at much, but over the years I’ve found an almost flawless expertise at holding a door open for attendees to pass through. Sometimes I use my left hand, sometimes my right. I’ve even been known to use my heel or backside. Regardless of technique employed, I welcome guests without a hitch—or handle.
The development of my skill over the years has allowed me to add facets to my game. One important one being a helpful, welcoming remark. It is welcoming because I say something like, “Welcome!” and it is helpful because I then give further instructions like, “Take a left” or “Straight ahead.”
On the day in question, there was an extra step of skill because there were extra steps ahead. Repeatedly I chirped, “Welcome. Up and to the right.”
Up and to the right.
That is the same terminology I’ve used to describe a flourishing life. We all want an up-and-to-the-right kind of life. In our finances, our workplaces, our relationships—up and to the right. When we find ourselves in-step with purpose, our being utilized and valuable—up and to the right. When we have freedom to move about life’s complexities—up and to the right. Where there is pure love—up and to the right.
Hundreds of people walked past me that day—up and to the right. Where were they headed? Well, they came in droves to hear a speaker named Daryl Davis. Davis is a musician, but most of his gigs these days employ only the instrument of his voice. He talks about his life, his mission, his purpose. More specifically, he talks about opening doors.
It was an accidental occurrence—Davis, a black man, playing music in a whites-only bar. Then one of the bar’s patrons buying him a drink. Then that same patron revealing his own affiliation in the Ku Klux Klan. All this was accidental. The rest wasn’t.
Quite purposefully, Davis formed a relationship with this man, wondering, “How can you hate me if you don’t even know me?” And this relationship led to another, with a national leader in the century-old racist establishment. And that relationship to another and another and another. Davis has befriended hundreds of Klansmen and women—he’s walked them down the aisle for their weddings, has made speeches at their events, has visited their homes, has played music for them. And for many, he’s been alongside them as they surrender their cloak and hood, abandoning their hateful ideology, thanks, in large part, to the love a friend gave them.
Up and to the right.
People from different walks of life sauntered up that day—up and to the right. They came for flourishing, and it was packaged messily—as hard, worthwhile work always is— in messages of unity, civility, transformation, hope, and love. It urged one another not to take up arms, but instead to repay evil with good—the long, slow way around, but the only way which leads, eventually, up and to the right.
The event ended and I let the door close behind me. But hopefully for me, and many others, another door stayed open. One leading up and to the right. Together.