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November 18, 2020, Saint Joseph, Michigan – On Election Day 2020, capping a national presidential campaign fraught with division, Adrian Dominican Associate Deb Carter reached out in reconciliation to people proclaiming an opposing political view. Deb, a social justice advocate, gave flowers to people who support President Donald Trump.
Deb was one of the first members of a group that stood in front of Rep. Fred Upton’s office in St. Joseph, Michigan, nearly every Tuesday since before President Trump’s inauguration in January 2017. The group has advocated for causes ranging from the rights of immigrants to gun safety.
The group has grown over the years and, fairly recently, supporters of President Trump began showing up, Deb said. Because of COVID-19, Deb’s group of protesters moved to a different corner to be socially distanced.
Although she had felt the division between the two groups, Deb said she experienced a “paradigm shift” after reading an article about the counter-protests in the October 31, 2020, issue of the Herald-Palladium, the newspaper for the Benton Harbor, Michigan, area. In that article, she said, she read about Chad, the first supporter of President Trump to protest at the corner, and Patrick, a member of her own group who spent time talking with Chad. Patrick, she found out, had sought out Chad and the two were having conversations about their beliefs.
“I thought about that for two days,” Deb said. “We’ve got to reach out and have a conversation. The country is splitting in half and there’s been terrible divisiveness. I thought Patrick was being verbally bullied by Chad, but that’s not what happened. The two of them were engaged in conversation.”
Deb emailed the article to members of her Mission Group, Kaleidoscope – comprised of Adrian Dominican Sisters and Associates – and was inspired by Sister Cheryl Liske’s suggestion to bring doughnuts for both sides to cut through the division. On Election Day, Deb said, she considered bringing doughnuts but realized that gesture could be risky during a pandemic.
“Then I got the idea of flowers, a universal symbol of peace,” Deb said. She cited a famous photograph of a flower placed in the gun of a National Guard member by a peace protestor. She brought enough flowers for her own group and the people on the other corner. Some refused, but others took the offering.
Deb hopes to go a step further once conditions are safer – to take time to meet with the protesters who support Trump to find common ground. “The article did prompt me to think that I need to reach out to Chad to suggest that right now is not the best time because of COVID-19, but at some time in the future I would like to sit down and talk to him.”
Deb said she has been inspired by her Mission Group and by the support that they have given her as she speaks out, advocating for social justice. Another Mission Group member, Associate Barbara Lawrence, made about 70 masks featuring the word “vote.” Deb sold them to other members of her group and their family members.
Mission Groups are a basic component of the government of the Adrian Dominican Sisters. Deb said her group has fully lived out one of its purposes, outlined in the Adrian Dominican Constitution: to “support and challenge one another for the quality of life and ministry.”
“My Association [with the Adrian Dominican Congregation] all these years has made me a better person and has made me realize that I can extend myself even further,” Deb said. “If I decide that I see something that’s wrong, I just can’t sit by and be silent.”
Feature photo: Associate Deb Carter, right, offers flowers to a supporter of President Trump on Election Day as a gesture of reconciliation.