By my reckoning, Christian Picciolini was about to renounce the white-power movement in 1995 when the Cincinnati-based band Blessid Union of Souls released its first album, “Home,” which featured the song “I Believe.”
I was driving through Arkansas the next year, on my way home to Springfield, Mo., after a work-related trip to Texas, when I heard the song the first time.
It floored me.
The first verse of “I Believe” includes these words: “Open up your mind and then open up your heart; and you will see that you and me aren’t very far apart.”
The chorus? “I believe that love is the answer. I believe that love will find a way.”
The radio station never announced the name of the song or the band. It took me a while to find it, but I did – and have enjoyed it often ever since.
You’ll find a story in this issue about Picciolini and his recent visit to Evansville, during which he spoke to students at Mater Dei and Reitz Memorial high schools. I asked him about the crux of his message. He replied, “Show compassion to those who might seem to deserve it the least because they probably need it the most.”
In that feature you’ll read Picciolini’s account of what happened after he decided to expand the selection of music in a Chicagoland record store he opened from primarily white-power albums to a variety of genres. “I started getting black customers, Jewish customers and gay customers,” he said. And at first, all he wanted from them was their business. “I didn’t want to be their friend.”
So … maybe the Holy Spirit found a way to get a foot in the door because, clearly, Picciolini opened up his mind, then opened up his heart. And he saw that, regardless of anything they might be, he and those new customers weren’t very far apart.
Something else about his story left an impression here, although he didn’t necessarily focus on it during his presentations.
Family is everything.
Today, we are bombarded by messages and movements that seek to downplay the importance of the family as we know it. Something else you’ll read in the feature on Picciolini involves the moment that he truly began indulging the doubts that had been building on his heart.
“Was I a hate monger, or a husband and father?” Picciolini’s answer began leading him away from white power.
From here, Picciolini’s experience reaffirms the fact that we have to make our families our priorities – and not just our biological families.
When I worked in the outdoor industry, there were two trade shows that I always looked forward to. They were the highlights of my year because my industry and outdoor-media friends would be there. They were like family reunions; and over the years, that extended family continued to grow.
As an only child, many of those people have become like siblings to me. We stay in touch, share triumphs and defeats, joy and sadness. Even though my parents came from large families, their siblings’ children – my cousins – have scattered to the wind. I have far more extended-family members than biological relatives in my life these days.
For me, those relationships are strong – and founded in health, not hate – because of the family life I had growing up. As a result, I can’t stress enough the need to make our families our top priorities because the kind of family lives we have will impact everything we become and everything we do.
If we have love in our families, compassion will come easy – and we will show it to everyone.
Say it with me: I believe that love is the answer. I believe that love will find a way.