How do I possibly write warm twin mommy morsels when my heart is so very bruised and battered this morning? How do I dare think of my boys and their future when I see how horribly dark and diseased our world appears to be at the moment.
I write about my boys often, but you all know that I am also the mother of two amazing twenty-something daughters. Being the mother of girls is a worrisome thing. I stress about the intentions of others toward them each and every day. They are beautiful and they are strong and they are passionate, but there are predators out there — predators who are attracted to their strength and beauty and passion because they want to own it, control it, damage it. All girl parents know this fear. Are they home safe? Are they making wise choices? Are they being cautious or are they being carefree while out in this world of breathtaking beauty and breath-taking destruction?
Worry for a mother of any child, male or female, is a very real thing. We all know the saying about having a child—about making the momentous decision to have your heart forever walk around outside your body (Elizabeth Stone). But these last few days, in the horrific aftermath of all of the violence being reported, I have tried to put myself in the place of terrified black mothers everywhere and I have tried to put myself in the place of terrified cop mothers everywhere.
I am not the mother of young, black sons. I know fear, but I don’t know that I can truly understand THAT fear. My child doesn’t venture out into the world every single day and willingly walk into a world that so often despises them for the color of their skin and the youth in their years. I have never had to worry about that fear with my daughters. Or the fear that some people will judge my child as a threat because she’s wearing a hoodie. Or that someone will twitch and shy away from her as she walks down the sidewalk. Or that someone will assume she is a troublemaker because she has a concealed carry license. Or that someone will assume bad things about her because she wears a baseball cap and carries a bat. All mothers have fears, and many of those fears are the same, and some of those fears are unfair and unimaginable and almost impossible to breathe through.
I also am not the mother of police officers. I know fear, but I don’t know that I can truly understand THAT fear, either. My child doesn’t suit up at the oh-dark-forty hours of the morning and willingly walk into a world that so often despises them for the color of their uniform and the symbol of their authority. I have never had to worry about that fear with my daughters. Or the fear that some people will judge my child as a threat because she’s wearing a badge. Or that someone will twitch and shy away from her as she drives down a side road. Or that someone will assume she is a troublemaker because she has a state-issued firearm. Or that someone will assume bad things about her because she wears an officer’s cap and carries a nightstick. All mothers have fears, and some of those fears are the same, and many of those fears are unfair and unimaginable and almost impossible to breathe through.
I am not the mother of black sons and I am not the mother of police officers. But I am a mother. I know and understand what it feels like for your heart to walk around outside your body. I know and understand THAT worry and THAT fear. As mothers, we all want the same thing: peace and respect, love and goodwill toward our babies. How can we protect all of these mothers’ hearts making their way through the world as it spins on its insane axis? I’ve taught thousands of mother’s babies in my career. I teach the children of afraid, black mothers. I teach the children of nervous, targeted officers. I see and hear these concerns every year, hell, every day. I see and feel these pains every day.
#BlackLivesMatter #BlueLivesMatter. All of this hurling of hashtags (which I’ve done, quite recently too) seems to only exacerbate the violence. Black and Blue. The colors of bruising. And we’re bruising one another. Even worse, we’re killing one another. And I don’t even like #allLivesMatter because it has become a band aid to slap over an open wound. It is causing even further divides. Love one another. Respect one another. #HumanityMatters.
There are bad guys on both sides. And there are good guys on both sides. And the good guys outnumber the bad in every direction. So what can we do so that all the good guys win? God I wish I knew. But I do know it has to begin with empathy. Empathy: putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes as best we can. Listening to their stories. Hearing their feelings. Understanding their needs. Acknowledging their fears. Respecting their lives.
Our fears are all different, and our fears are all the same. It’s Einstein’s theory of relativity. And the physics doesn’t stop there. Newton’s third law comes into play, too: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. And right now, the action has been violence. And the violence begets violence. The injustice begets injustice.
We need a sea change – in other words, a major transformation. And without empathy we’ll never get there. It takes one empathetic soul at a time to bring about change. And one feels like such a drop in the ocean. But with every drop, with every person who tries to understand, to put themselves in the “other’s” position, the tides can change.
Now I know that practically no one ever changes his or her mind through political FaceBook posts. I know people like their opinions (and only THEIR opinions) in sound bites – and this has been far longer than a sound bite — but I’m hoping someone out there has heard. One soul. Because first one and then one and then one and then one… and suddenly empathy has met Newton’s third law, and we have a Sea Change. Or should I say, we See Change. God knows we need it.
This is my Mother’s Prayer.