Photo: I have spent a lot of energy nursing my transplanted daisies to health over the last 2 weeks. Here one has popped. Just the faintest bit of joy on what was otherwise an excruciating day.
I have been thinking about how to write this post since yesterday morning, when I turned on the news and learned about the massacre in Charleston. I considered my feelings, consulted the much more eloquent words of my favorite thinkers and writers…
and I’ve sat down to write this post multiple times. Sometimes by long hand, sometimes in my word processor…
I keep coming up empty.
I’ve started a draft by writing about my fear: Is there no sacred place for Blackness, no safe place? Then I chastised myself, throwing the paper away. If you give into the fear, Kyra, the terrorist wins. Don’t give him your fear. Don’t feed him with your withdrawal.
I’ve started a draft by writing about my anger: Another man with another gun, more victims gone because we are not brave enough to speak plainly, to make laws that reflect our resolve, and to enforce highest ideals as a nation. Then I chastised myself, deleting the words in the screen. Don’t give comfort to his allies with your anger, Kyra. Don’t allow him your anguish. Don’t feed him with your rash words and thoughtless action.
I’ve started a draft by writing about my exhaustion: I feel like we’ve been under siege for eighteen months, with no recourse, little action, no hope for any change. Then I chastised myself, killing my word processor and walking away from my computer. Don’t give up on those who’ve fought and who fight, Kyra. Don’t turn your back, don’t curl up in a corner. Don’t silence your voice. Don’t feed him with your doubts and your submission.
I’ve started a draft by writing about my sorrow: Did my grandparents toil and fight and march for nothing? Are we forever subject to the mockery of some, the violence of others, the constant draining of our talents by the silent majority? Will my pain forever be invisible? Will my sons know this pain as they get older? Then I chastised myself, sending the draft post to the wordpress trash can. Don’t allow the sadness to swallow you, Kyra. Don’t allow the hope to drain from you. It was hard won, profoundly earned, thoughtfully given. Don’t feed him with your tears.
That leaves me without emotion. This is a world without passion, color, sound. I am seeking the music, yearning for warmth, and finding little.
Words sprinkle in from here and there. My husband, God bless him, has done everything he can while keeping his own anguish and sadness in check. And we, two people who love each other despite the history of it all…. we have looked at our sons with wide eyes: these two will inherit the beauty of American history gone right and, unfortunately, even the loving and thoughtful nature of their creation cannot erase the deep darkness of centuries of conflict between their two ancestries. I cannot shield them from this pain because I must teach them this history.
Not today. Not tomorrow. But a day soon coming.
There are just so many more tears to be shed.
I want to crawl back into my bed in my most comfortable clothing, pull over the covers and let the world fall away from me. For days. Maybe weeks. I want it all to go away. But I can’t, because I have two sons who don’t understand that evil exists in the world. They understand that they want to wear their favorite pajamas to bed tonight. They know that they are hungry for a snack. They know that they have friends who they want to play with. They know that the sun is shining and they want to frolic under its rays.
So I get up.
And I pray.
And I listen to the heartache, but I also hear the calls for peace, for love, and for forgiveness. As a Christian (or a trying-to-be-better-Christian) I’ve been called to love first and above all, and forgiveness comes with that love. If you love, you forgive. If you forgive, then you love. And you must love, because Christ says that this is the singular most important thing that we must do. We love. We forgive. We grow.
I am having a hard time. I am having a hard time loving a place that clearly doesn’t love me: doesn’t love who I am, my history, how I look, how I speak, what I aspire to become and how I aspire to get there. This is a place and time that has declared an unabashed and unwavering dislike of my likeness.
I am having a hard time forgiving a place that doesn’t forgive me. It doesn’t seem to forgive me for looking different, feeling different, acting different, speaking different. This is a place and time that can rush to judgement so quickly as to physically endanger me for simply being.
I am having a hard time growing. I don’t know what the expectation is anymore. I don’t have comforting words for myself or for others. I can only look on, at this point, with astonishment.
I will love. I will bake bread and break it with whomever will share it with me, even those whom I disagree with. I will keep my farmhouse door open, my table clear and welcoming, my arms open as wide as I can spread them. I will continue to love my country, with its complicated history, and I will always treat it like it’s the only one I’ve got. Because it is. I can’t go anywhere because this is my home. So I dedicate myself to make it better. One word, act of kindness, or act of service at a time.
I will forgive. Because I listened to members of the families of the nine victims in South Carolina say with breaking hearts “I forgive you.” If they can, raw and grieving as they are, then so can I. I can forgive those who chose to hate me. I can forgive those who chose to scare me.
I will grow. Because history has shown that violence against my community does not break it. Violence against my community only makes it larger, stronger, with more resolve and better strategies. Violence against us brings us allies, and those allies only propel us forward in our cause. I will grow because I know that my growth does something for me, for my sons, and for those who love us: Black or White or any other color on the spectrum. I will grow because I’m loved far more profoundly by incredibly important people than I could possibly be hated by anonymous and cowardly groups or individuals. Nothing can change that.
And so are you, dear reader. You are loved. I hope you choose to love and forgive, too. I hope you will break bread, open your door, clear your table, and spread your arms wide open in welcome. If you pray, I hope you’ll do so. If you have money, I hope you’ll give some. If you hear hate around you, I hope you won’t abide by it. I hope you speak powerfully when called to do so. I hope you grow if you have the opportunity to. Honor those who died by living your life in peace, dear reader.
Until Monday, Dear Reader, walk in love and take care.