Where Bravery is Needed

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It was a drug-related shooting. That’s what the paper said the next day. A twenty-two year old black man, shot in broad daylight. Drug-related. As if that explained it away. As if the killing of a twenty-two year old boy could ever make sense. As if he never had dreams or hopes or ever fell in love.

We were invited to an awards luncheon that day, my co-workers and I. Our team had been nominated by one of our patients for a prestigious award from the hospital where we work. We had to travel off-campus for the banquet, so we carpooled and dined on salmon, potatoes dauphinoise, and chocolate swans. We didn’t win the award but we returned to work feeling valued and full. As we walked the block from the parking lot to the hospital, we noticed there were several police cars outside of the Emergency Room, which we must pass to get to the staff entrance. As we approached, we saw there were groups of people—all African-American—in clusters around the entryway. They were varied ages; beautiful doe-eyed women held babies on their hips, gray-haired grandmothers wept on the sidewalk, young boys stood, hunched—hands in pockets. There were so many, they spilled out onto the street, standing and peering expectantly into the glass doors of the hospital. A young man leaned up against the sturdy brick of the building, sobbing uncontrollably.

We trespassed through the scene of this tragedy, silenced by grief. I passed within a breath of that weeping young man. I wanted to wrap my mama arms around him, bear up the pain just a little. Instead, I walked silently by, climbed the steps to the second floor, closed my office door behind me, gripped the edges of my desk and let tears come.

What can be done? Children are killing children. Blind to the sanctity of life, their hearts turned to stone by too many ugly days, too soon. I walked through that grieving throng, a witness.The next day was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. And the front page of the newspaper read, “Drug-related.”

That evening, we took our son shopping for a new pair of shoes. We were getting ready to take him back to college—he needed some winter walking shoes. We went to the mall to make a night of it. When we entered the shoe-store, my boy and his dad headed over to the brown suede, heavy-tread section and I made a beeline for four-inch heels and wedge booties.

There was one other woman in the store with me—a black woman (“I’ll be sixty-two this year,” she told me) who was surrounded by a gaggle of teens. The kids kept flocking to her and then dispersing. Finally, she and I were left alone to try on shoes. Her smile was so lovely. I could feel her goodness (“I inherited two children about ten years ago, one with special needs,” she told me). We tried on steep wedges together, discussing the dangers of walking. We laughed and she never stopped smiling. I felt like I was shopping with a sister.

What is so difficult about love? What is so exceptional about seeing beauty in someone who looks different than I?

The Triune God delights in the diversity of the three-in-one. The diversity of this world is a direct reflection of the beauty of God. Belden Lane says,”The Trinity delights in all its varied communications of itself, seeing it’s beauty replicated in every species. Each one turns God’s beauty back onto its source, sharing in the dance of desire from which everything comes.”

Lane was referring to variety in nature to make a case for more responsible ecology; but if all of nature glorifies the Creator in this way, how much more does the diversity among the cultures of human kind—those very creatures extolled as bearing the image of God?

I wish this story had a different ending. I wish I could say I wrapped my arms around that weeping young man and my embrace was welcomed. I wish I could say there haven’t been several more shootings on that same end of town. I wish I could say I asked the lovely smiling woman in the shoestore her name, took her number, or even a selfie to post on Facebook later. But life has these invisible lines we rarely inconvenience ourselves to cross over, doesn’t it? And it is inconvenient, frightening even, to enter into another’s world, to let myself be vulnerable to rejection. I know it’s much more complicated than having courage to put myself out there, but how much of the way things are might be changed by the bravery of an embrace? By taking the time to truly connect with a stranger? By letting someone know I see the Holy in them?

Maybe not much, but I want to find out. I’m praying for another chance. And for courage.

Comments

  1. says

    A beautiful piece, Laura. What’s so difficult about love? God. For when He is rejected, self takes up residence. Self can’t love as God loves. As we are meant to love. It seeks only itself. These issues aren’t going to be solved this side of heaven. But we can make a difference, each of us, right where we are, by letting our actions bear the image of God. Just like you did in the shoe store. I’m sure your response to that lady meant more than you know. Darlene is right, you love well.

  2. Kelly Greer says

    Laura I loved this. The tenderness that you reveal for the one shot because of “drugs.” It does not matter why, a son is gone again.The grief of seeing yet another young black male gone. It is heartbreaking. When I stood with protestors in Ferguson on the peaceful side ..the west Florissant Road, the was thicker than August Missouri humidity. We were sweating there. Blood sweat and tears there. I met a young man named Woo who had a degree in sociology from Washington University. He told me he was a light skinned black man which put him in a challenging position himself with the black community. Yet he was black through and through. Both parents are black. Yet he was stigmatized as “other” within his own community. I prayed with a group there as they blew the whistle to hold hands in a circle and pray. Woo didn’t join us. When we broke from prayer I returned to him to finish our conversation. He told me he was an atheist. We kept talking. Me, old enough to be his mother, white Christian woman. And him, light skinned, atheist protesting black man. I asked him why he was protesting and he said because the justice system treats black unfairly. We talked about why he thought that. Each thing he listed, I was able to share a personal story about my experiences with the justice system. Every experience echoed his. I and /or my loved ones have experienced the same injustices he was protesting. I was there to show love and encourage solidarity and peace. (We brought them cookies the first day.) And he was there because he was fed up. Finally, we came to a point for which I had no reply. Sweat rolled down his brow into his eyes but they also began to fill with tears. All of the sudden he cried out that too many young black men (youths included) were dying in the streets. Too many. I was hushed by this overwhelming reality. I see the sad reports on the news nnightly.Tge crying mothers. I see. You know what happened between us? We embraced right there and cried together. I am crying right now as I recall that moment. It hurts. It never ends. It is beyond our control. And it affects us all deeply. I have read statistics that homicide is the number one killer of black males ages 15-34. We should grieve. And we should embrace the grieving. I hope you follow that nudge next time you see a grieving family and embrace them. Don’t let fear get in your way. I also became friends with black women that led the protest group. We prayed together and became one in Jesus. Each one finishing the other’s prayers. It has been a healing moment in the midst of great sorrow and pain here. A beautiful thing God did.

  3. says

    Sweet Laura,

    Your words are such a balm to my soul and such a gift to my heart. I am thankful for you, for the lessons you you share and the way you wear beauty in your every day. Praying with you in this hurt.

    Bless you friend,
    Dawn

  4. says

    Oh, yes, Laura. I get this. The sorrow, the puzzlement, the fear. I’m praying to be brave, too. And strong and sure about what is and isn’t just, what is and isn’t compassionate. Thank you, friend. Lovely work.

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