I have had friends and family asking me how Josh and I are processing this last week and it’s hard to know what to say. I was driving home from work last Tuesday afternoon when I first heard about George Floyd and when I got home I watched the now infamous video with growing horror. After dinner we grabbed our masks and piled in the car and drove to Cup Foods. Evangeline brought paper to write a sign – I don’t think either of us even suggested that idea. In the car she worked on it and then showed us, “No more of this.” Except the “of” was backwards so it said, “No more fo this.” It was already raining and it was hard to find a place to park. We followed our phones to the address and joined small clumps of people that seemed headed in the same direction. It wasn’t a big group outside of Cup and it was peaceful. There were occasional chants of, “Black lives matter!” and “We want justice!” There was a woman from NAACP walking around talking to people. All kinds of people – so many different faces – I wondered what their stories were. We couldn’t see who was doing the talking since we were trying to maintain social distance and the rain just kept coming. Josh put Evangeline on his shoulders so she could see. She held her sign and quietly took in the crowd. Judah was ready to leave pretty quickly, not liking the rain. A young woman came up and asked if she could take Josh and Evangeline’s picture.
We drove home, our hearts heavy. “Now what?” I wondered.
And then the world found out.
That cannot only have been last Tuesday. We have aged years this last week. The Twin Cities has faced a reckoning that we were not prepared for. I think my own feelings of grief, heartbreak, helplessness, horror, fear and hope are mirrored in so many friends and neighbors who love this city.
We humans cannot take in all the brokenness of the world. We know it’s out there, but we are incapable of holding it all. Our 24-hour news cycle tells us that we should take it all in, which only leaves us callous. But then the brokenness arrives on our front door and suddenly it’s in our homes and our neighborhoods and our families and our churches and we cry out from the pain of it.
Here’s the thing: the African American community has lived with the reality of that brokenness for hundreds of years, without the choice of turning off the news or driving home to the suburbs. In this city that I love so much People of Color were systematically driven out of certain housing areas and forced into smaller pockets. It’s called redlining and it was a concerted, intentional effort, over many years, to segregate black from white and keep black families in poverty. Fifty years ago my family, with our black children, would not have been allowed to live in our neighborhood. This isn’t the South – this is Minneapolis.
When we went to Cup Foods last Tuesday, we were making a statement, in the best way we knew how. We were saying that things have not been the way they should be and we want it to be different. We were adding our small voices to the larger cry of lament. We were grieving the unjust death of George Floyd, and we were grieving the hundreds of years of pain suffered by the black community.
When Josh and I lost our twins, over ten years ago now, we learned what it feels like when people are afraid of pain. We could tell when others just didn’t want to talk about it because it made them uncomfortable. And we learned how precious beyond words it is to have friends who were willing to sit with us in our grief.
It takes courage to receive someone else’s pain. It takes courage to lament with them. It takes courage to listen silently. It’s easier to change the subject or minimize – to say it’s really not that bad.
I have felt within myself the desire to minimize the African American experience in this country. Trying to hear the voices of pain that have echoed down through the years ever since the first black slaves set foot on this continent is very difficult. So many times I have felt like I just would rather not do that work.
But then I look into the eyes of my children and I teach them how to take care of their skin and their hair because someone else has taught me and I know that I cannot cut them off from their heritage. I tell them black people in this country have suffered and I tell them that is wrong and it should have never been that way. I tell them that God – the God that they belong to – hates injustice. I tell them that God Incarnate chose a life of suffering because of Love. I tell them that suffering is not the worst thing in this world. Malice is worse. Hatred is worse. Injustice is worse. Indifference is worse.
Love, in this world, always means suffering. I love the babies that I lost, which is why I suffered when they died. I love the babies that I was given to raise and I suffer as their mama. Sometimes I suffer because they’re normal kids and they drive me crazy. But then there is the suffering they bear in them because they are black and what that has meant, and still means, in our country. I pray to receive that suffering with courage.
This last week we have heard from our Priest, our Bishop and our Archbishop – all of them calling the Church to lament, to pray, to fast and then to take action. I am glad to hide myself in their leadership. They follow Jesus who chose a path of suffering. I am ready to lament with my church and with my community and, Lord willing, my children will learn early how to weep for the pain of others.
“You were not ashamed to share in our sufferings, Jesus.
Let us now be willing to share in yours, serving
As your visible witnesses in this broken world.”
-Douglas McKelvey and Ned Bustard