Last year when I had to walk youth through some difficult moments, I grabbed a dry-erase marker and created three columns… what we know, what we feel, and what we say we believe (and must remind ourselves in hard times). As the inauguration looms, I find myself employing the same strategy for the future that looms before us.
To the baby cradled in his mother’s arms,
Feel the warmth. Soak in the affection. Nurture your belonging in this beautiful world. Gaze in her eyes and receive her fierce devotion. This is your birthright. This moment is your true identity as beloved divine creation.
I dream for you a world where all others embrace you the same way your mother does now.
I dream for you a world where you may flourish in freedom of body, soul, and mind.
I dream for you a time and place where others may perceive your tender heart and your endless potential, just by the sight of you.
Even as your mother gazes upon you today, she is preparing for the talk. She will one day have to sit you down on the porch and speak to you about the world as it is. Her heart will twist and turn in her chest as she places a new identity over this first one – black male in America.
I was in the ninth grade when Columbine happened. No longer the name of just a school, it represents the beginning of what has become the persistent violent anger taken out on the culture’s most vulnerable. Other than jail, schools are the only other place where people, based on age or life stage, are required to be. Don’t show up and face legal ramifications. And it is in this place – where futures are bright, opportunities abound, and parents’ hearts beat outside of their chest – that has become the bull’s-eye of violence.
Politicians debate and social media is polarized.
24-hour media cycles go on and on, running footage repeatedly AS IF that is helpful.
People dig down into their perspective and philosophies, choosing principles over people.
It is what it is.
Generally, politics fuel so much of my righteous anger that I find it best not to talk about it with others. However, as I approach the time when I have to send our oldest to kindergarten, it feels way more personal.
To Amsha and the Yazidi Women,
The car has made its way back home from dropping the boys off and it is time to walk back inside to begin the tasks of the day – emails to send, errands to run, calls to make. But I am hunched over the steering wheel, my eyes glazed over as I watch the tree branches sway. The grey fall morning and my to-do list for the day feels suddenly foreign as I finish listening to a NPR report. Through the power of journalism, I have been transported to Erbil in Iraq as Leila Fadel tells me you. She tells me how you and your fellow Yazidi women have been captured by ISIS and held as slaves for sex, violence, and service after your husbands and families have been murdered before your very eyes.
Your voice makes it real. Your soft voice sounds too familiar. The words, I may not understand, but your humanity I receive. It is a voice of a fellow woman, a fellow human being, who has endured the darkest night and now wonders, where do I go from here? Can life continue now that my dignity and my community has been robbed?
To the newborn baby in the arms of your migrant mother,
We heard news of your arrival yesterday. There were no balloons or texts. There were no Facebook announcements or professional photos. We heard of news of your birth as we were seated surrounded by the sacred stones and saints in stained glass. Your advocate and future pastor, Samuel, brought us the news from the pulpit. He mentioned no baby showers, no hospital visits, no grandparents, no newborn tests.
You were born under the radar. You were born in isolation. You were born out of the violence of rape as your mother escaped the dangers of her home countries. You were born into the masses of migrants that flood the Moroccan streets, stuck on the border of Africa and Europe. You were born stuck, homeless, and unknown for there are no documents announcing your arrival.
I feel it again on the car ride home from daycare. My daily worries, headaches, and inconveniences are pierced and shattered by word about the state of my fellow humans living around this world we share. The stories. The audible cries of the hurting.
I pause. Not to give thanks for my privileged life, but to walk a mile in the shoes of another in prayer. Seemingly inconsequential in the face of another’s impending death in war. Seemingly not enough in the face of another’s life-altering grief. Six-degrees-of-separation suggests the suffering of another is never far from me. Scripture suggests it must always be within me.
I pause and I walk next to each of them in prayer…
Each morning, the voices and images of people across the globe flood my second floor as I prepare for the day. Through the amazing gift of technology, Brian Williams catches me up on the latest news in our world.
Women weep and cling to one another in a Chinese hotel as they await answers from the disappearance of their family and friends. Men attempt to win the battles of wars waged by greed, power, and pride that parade as politics. And then they feature a special on the children of Syria.