Tuesday, May 21, 2013

It's Just Me, the Activist


Cory and I used to watch the local evening news regularly. We watched mostly for kicks, having already gotten the pertinent stories of the day online. But, you know, there's the ever-important weatherman in his dorky tie and once we were lucky enough to catch a reporter screaming and cursing at her videographer while she thought the camera wasn't rolling.

Then, there would be the activists, marching around because of inadequate parking or an unfair ruling. We'd roll our eyes and wonder if they knew how silly they looked and if they truly believed they were changing anything.

A few months ago there was a homicide/suicide just down our street. It happened at 8:30 on a Monday morning on the sidewalk, broad daylight, two houses down from Silas's pre-school. Concerned calls and texts came in, but we were fine. It was a whole half mile away.

Still, the news was shocking and I wore the shove and drag of darkness around like a veil.

We were unsettled. It wasn't that we were afraid for our own lives, but that the thick pulse of humanity and all its pain, all of its confusion rose up around us. The corners that we try to hide from crept out of the shadows and I could see the chain connecting death and life. I remembered (again) the reality of that tension, as real and unnoticed as the turning of the world we stand on.

A month or so later, just 2 blocks away this time, there was a drive-by shooting. We heard the shots from our couch and wondered why someone was lighting fireworks on a Sunday night.

4 teenagers were shot, no one killed. They said it was gang related, made sure we all knew that it wasn't random violence.

But I imagine the barrel of a gun hanging out the passenger side of a Chevy, I imagine bullet casings landing on the same grass Calvin and Ruby play on at recces, and it sounds pretty random to me. Random enough.

When we heard about the neighborhood parade, we didn't think twice. We knew we might be some of the only ones who showed. We knew it was strange, even for us.

But this is our community and these are our people. They are lovely and hurting. They feel forgotten and unnoticed. They've become something worth standing up for, and we don't even know many of their names.

Our beautiful church rallied around this effort, even though none of them live here. Our pastor reminded us that this is why we're here, and of course I cried. Robert teases me about being a cry baby and fine, it's true. God has pummeled my heart and it now it bleeds with every passing breeze.

So I cried because my children didn't think it was weird and because the dear man at my church told me on Sunday, "This isn't something we would normally do, but we're going to try it!". I cried because Haven and baby Avery came with us and it did all our hearts good. I cried because I'm so proud of my husband, who led us here with courage and conviction. I cried because there was a stinking band, and displaced bands almost always make me cry.

So many people showed up, moms and grandpas. We walked in the heat, passed flowers to the ladies on their stoops and candy to the kids. We carried our signs and pushed strollers and I took it all in.

This is community. It's what I never knew I needed. These are my brothers and sisters, my surrogate family. They are the ones who have welcomed us without question or explanation.

I always had a hunch that we would be changed by what we found here, but I couldn't have guessed how quickly or completely that change would fall.

It's amazing to me that in stepping out of our comfort zone, we landed where we've never been more at home.

Our kids know the concept of drive-by shootings now, and that's okay. It's okay for them to see from a low vantage point that darkness lurks, because every time those shadows shift, it's an opportunity to remind them that God is with us. He's in us.

So tie a daisy in my braids, I'm practically a legit hippie now. 

Did we change anything? Really change it?
I don't know that we did. I doubt any gang members changed their ways because we handed them a pack of Skittles.

But maybe this spinning globe filled with people craving hope can be distilled down to one little neighborhood on a hill. Maybe a human race filled with empty hearts is the same as that young family standing wary at their door, emanating pain in our wake.

I keep wondering what made them open that door. I keep wondering if I'll ever see the other side of it.
Maybe they were reason enough.

I have hope for Chamberlain neighborhood. I know His name and that His heart throbs for all of us. I know that Love lives here, recognize it or not.