You know me well.
I have the expectation that you will listen to what I have to say. I expect you to listen, not out of some demand or authoritative pressure, but out of respect. We have been through a lot together…good times and bad. We have a relationship of which I am thankful. You are my home state, and I love you. Maybe my Oklahoma birth certificate will be relational enough for you to give me a few minutes of your time.
I’m not writing to you for me, but for my unborn granddaughter. She will be my first, and the thought of her taking her first breath of fresh Oklahoma air brings a tear to my eye. I’m writing to you on behalf of her, because when I think of her growing up within your borders, my tears are no longer ones of joy.
We are friends you and I, so I feel we are connected enough for you to not only hear my words, but to actually listen to what they convey. Lifelong relationships not only expect open and honest communication, they require it; so I preface what I have to say with the assurance that I love you no matter what. I was taught this concept from my mother; love that has no boundaries.
Oklahoma, I simply don’t recognize you anymore. When you and I were growing up, you were not a state based on fear and hatred. Sure, there were those counties and cities that took pride in holding on to an ignorance of prejudice from long ago…every state has them. What I’m talking about is you as a state, the one that I keep reading about in the newspaper and on the internet. I’m to the point that I cringe at the first sight of a headline when it begins, “In the State of Oklahoma today…” It is as if you are a teenager crying out for help and the only way you know how to cry out is to act out.
Oklahoma, there are good people right there who can help you. I can hear their voices; voices that I recognize and new voices that I would love to join in with their songs of hope. These are the types of voices that began forming me even in the womb, just like my granddaughter is being formed now. These are the voices that taught me in my living room, taught me at school, and taught me on Sundays.
I want my granddaughter to hear these same voices, ones who taught me to be honest, to share, to speak with respect to everyone, (even when we disagreed), and to take responsibility for my actions. I want my granddaughter to be formed by the message of loving God and loving our neighbors… not just because it is the most important thing Jesus taught us, but because it is the right and proper thing to do.
Oklahoma, in you reside my roots, and because they run deep I must offer you some tough love. You need help and if you accept it, things will get better. This hatred, ignorance, prejudice and fear that you have let overcome you has to change. Turn to those who love you and who have the education to help you through this hard time.
In school you taught me to learn math from mathematicians, to learn science from scientists, to learn language arts from those who were educated in the complexities of the spoken and written word, and you taught me the importance of hard work and teamwork through the determination and excellence of my coaches.
You have forgotten about this important stuff Oklahoma, but it’s okay. Our bad choices don’t make us bad. Our mistakes are what create growth, but you have to stop and listen. It is time you began to take advice from those who were educated to share their precious knowledge with others. Get your science information from people who actually have degrees in science and don’t have any stake in the outcome of your choices.
Get your financial advice from those who actually know about economics. Get your mental health advice from those who actually understand how the human mind works and the vital importance to heal trauma - not cause it. When you need instruction on education, listen to those who understand education…all levels of education, and not just the way you educated me back in the day. Some of those methods still work, but many simply don’t any longer. It is also time to get your theological advice from people who actually have a master’s level or higher education in studying the complexities of God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ.
When you need a plumber, call someone who has an education in plumbing…and right now you need a plumber. At the very least, remember to live by what you were taught in kindergarten, because what I read about would certainly get you sent to the principal’s office.
I know you…You are better than this… You are holier than this.
It is time to stop acting out and reach out to those who love you and can actually help you. If you won’t do it for me, do it for yourselves. If you won’t do it for yourselves, do it for Jesus.
If you can’t bring yourself to do it right now, I plead with you to focus all your attention come the first week of April. If you are able to truly listen just this once, you will hear the life giving breath of the Holy Spirit as it enters the brand new lungs of my granddaughter….and maybe, just maybe, hearing her cry will be all it takes for you to seek out the help you so badly need.
I love you no matter what.
Kirk A. Woodliff