Have you ever played the icebreaker “Two Truths and a Lie”? If not, the premise is pretty simple. You give two facts about yourself along with something that isn’t true. Other people have to guess which statement is a lie. Like most icebreakers, it is usually awkward but there are rare moments when the game gives you significant insight into other people.
I’m about to let you know the “two truths and a lie” that I use most often. Unfortunately, this means I’m giving away my secrets so we’ll have to play a different icebreaker the next time we are together… or I will need to come up with completely new facts about myself…but that seems like a lot of work!
Here you go. See if you can guess which one is the lie. 1. I played college baseball. 2. I am half Native American. 3. I have jumped out of an airplane.
Well, what do you think? Which one is the lie?
If you don’t know me, you may have even gone as far as to go to the “about me” section of my blog to search for clues. That may have helped you…or it might have driven you farther from the truth.
The lie is…I have jumped out of an airplane.
At this point, most people look at me with disbelief. The truth that throws them for a loop isn’t that I played college baseball (even though there’s plenty of reason for them to question that one too). Most people are shocked that I am half Native American.
When I let people know this part of my ethnicity, the first response is often “NO WAY!” Generally, I follow that up with “Yep. My mom is full Native American”. Most people still aren’t convinced so they say something like, “Does she LOOK Native American?” to which, I respond, “Yes. Dark hair and dark skin”. Often there is still a look of skepticism on their face when they ask, “What tribe are you from?” When I tell them I’m from the Sappony tribe, they look at me as if to say, “Is that tribe even real?!”. 7 times out of 10, people will follow that up with “Well, I’m part Native American too”. When I ask them who in their family was an American Indian, they often don’t know.
So why do I keep on using my ethnicity as part of that icebreaker? Some people may see it as a novelty. For me, it goes much deeper. I don’t think you can truly understand ME unless you know that side of me. Outwardly, I might appear very white but being American Indian has shaped the way I view and see the world.
From a very young age, I can remember my mom telling me her experience living in the segregated South. It resonated with me not just intellectually, but in my soul. I felt like a part of me endured that same treatment.
When I visited that side of my family, I felt “home” in a way that I didn’t in other environments. I’m a storyteller at heart. Stories were always a central part of every family gathering. Sometimes these stories went on for hours but everyone told them in such compelling ways that time seemed to stand still.
There was also the wonder of watching my grandmother carefully tend a garden, the joy of sneaking into the refrigerator with my grandfather and the thrill of going fishing with my uncle. There was a belonging and connection that I still feel to this day.
Yet, when I left that place of safety, my ethnicity felt like a secret identity. No one else could tell where I came from or who I truly was.
Of course, the fact that I look so white means I never endured the kind of radical bias that my mom and other members of my family had to deal with. I have grown up with a level of privilege that they never had access to.
I have never been turned away from a hospital because of the color of my skin. I have never been forced to go to a special school with very little resources because I was deemed unfit to mingle with people of other races.
The suffering I have gone through is nothing in comparison to the rejection that many of them experienced. Yet, I know the feeling of not being believed that I am who I say I am. I know what it is like to live between two worlds. And yes, I know what it’s like to be mocked because of the color of my skin. Jokes that I often laughed along with because of the shame I experienced inside.
I hope my experience with ethnicity has turned me into a more compassionate person. I pray it has given me empathy for people who others reject. More than anything, I hope I am living my life in a way that would make my family proud. Similarly, I want my children to be driven, not simply by where they are going, but also by a profound appreciation for where they have come from. I hope they will carry on the “truth” of the legacy they have inherited.