Responding to Fear and Violence. From a Cornfield.
I live on a couple of acres in the rural backroads of Illinois. This summer as the corn grows tall it creates 3 walls around our property isolating us even more than we typically are.
Out here it’s quiet and peaceful and easy to pretend our country isn’t at war with itself.
This week we’ve been working on 4H projects and getting things done around the house. Our usual routines are out the window so I haven’t been watching or listening to the news as methodically as I normally do. But I’m on social media enough that I’ve been reading about and following the horrors of 2 families and countless communities as they watch, on video, the shootings of their sons.
My prayers and head-shaking have joined with the thousands of others who don’t know what to do. What to say. Who feel helpless to change a culture that so often acts out of fear instead of compassion and gentleness. I hold my kids close and tell them we have to assume the best about people and expect equality and make no assumptions, but so much they hear and see teaches them otherwise.
Then I watched the tweets pile up on my feed as shootings rang out in Dallas. And social media accounts jumped to conclusions and accusations and lines were drawn and anger and fear once again filled the air. I said loudly – Stop saying things that make it worse! Watch your step! Have mercy on the hurting! And some people nodded and others shut off their phones and went to sleep.
And honestly I don’t blame them.
This morning I got up to a quiet house of sleeping children. I went to my favorite morning show website and watched their daily opener, knowing it would give me a synopsis of how things stand today.
And I cried.
I cried for my country.
I cried for the dead.
For their children and parents and for their neighbors.
I cried for the angry and the helpless. I cried for the lines that have been drawn and the hearts that want to do what’s right. I cried as I watched the officers protecting their community while their very lives were being threatened.
In real time. In real life.
This isn’t a movie or a game or a suspenseful novel the country is gripped with right now.
This is real life.
This is scared mamas worrying their black sons and husbands aren’t going to come home. This is frightened children who respond in rage and tears and who are feeling too much so they turn it off and find themselves numb to the pain of their elders.
This is scared mamas worrying their policing sons and husbands aren’t going to come home.This is frightened children who respond in rage and tears and who are feeling too much so they turn it off and find themselves numb to the pain of their elders.
My country is hurting and I’m crying again. I’m crying like I cried on September 12th, not knowing what we will be facing next. Worried for our communities, the fear people carry with them, and the mixed up emotions that lead people to lash out at what threatens them.
I look outside.
The sky is picturesque – periwinkle blue with puffy clouds floating by. A soft breeze gently moves the tall wall of corn. My yard is green and safe and so are my kids.
My son climbs onto my lap. I hold him tight and kiss his head. I have to teach you compassion, I think to myself. And it’s easy to have compassion out here where there’s nothing to be afraid of. But character doesn’t crystallize without heat. It won’t be until my children are faced with cruel reality that they will have an opportunity to become the compassionate people I pray they become. And I’m not talking about the right Tweet or Facebook post. That’s easy. I’m talking about pushing back against the racism that’s so common in this neck of the woods. Reaching out a hand to someone who is different from them. Or recognizing there are two sides, probably more, to every story and lots of terrible ways to respond.
I’m still trying to figure out how this works when your daily life rarely intersects with other people let alone the injustices they face. I have a lot to learn.
But I believe it starts with sharing the cruel world with my kids. It includes talking about the fears and the pain of the people they will encounter. And modeling grief when my country is hurting.
It requires prayer to the only one who can heal our sinful hearts. Asking lots of questions and having awkward conversations that no one has ever had with me.
Out here in the country we can choose to go about our business as if everyone is as safe as we are.
But I don’t think that does my kids or my country any favors. I have to teach and model compassion, in all circumstances.
Lord, help me.