I sat perfectly still, procrastinating, wishing this moment had never arrived. The car halted in front of the foster care home. I treasured these drives deeply, giving my favorite five-year old free reign with the GPS, leading me, weaving through the streets, the same way for a year. But tonight was different; it was the last ride home and I was hardly ready to say good-bye. He handed me the GPS and his sweet little voice burst my heart into a billion beautiful pieces, “I love you.” Never had I heard him say these words to anyone. Getting out of the car, he bolted into the fenced yard, all giddy and restless, until he landed in his foster mom’s arms. “Nini, nini…I told her I loved her!!!” Nini kindly invited me inside for a moment to show me pictures she’d had developed of the boys. I hugged each of them with all the love I could manage, eyes filling with tears. And then…then this little boy bravely reached out to hold my hand. Locking eyes with mine he said, “Goodbye sister.”
My mom was at the grocery store the other day. When she walked out, bags in hand, two African-American men stood by a table, and asked if they could talk with her. They were raising money for their inner-city ministry that helps those who are isolated by drug and alcohol addictions. She unassumingly reached into her purse and gave all the money she had left. The men expressed their profound gratitude for her generosity and asked if she’d like to take a Bible home. She responded that well, she has a number, you know being a pastor’s wife and all. And then…then she smiled and told them, “You’re my brothers.”
An African American boy accepting a white woman in the inner-city. You’re my sister. You’re welcome here.
A white woman accepting an African American man in the suburbs. You’re my brother. You’re welcome here.
These are the moments when the world feels right. When we affirm the goodness in the other and bravely light our candles in the dark, believing and praying the promise: that we might be one.
But then Baltimore or Ferguson or Milwaukee for that matter leave all of us in shock, longing for justice or judgment. And I can’t help but think tonight of a precious six-year old I love, tucked away in bed, not yet aware of the world he’s growing up in. A world that does not value the humanity and dignity of the African American man. A world where one in three black men are imprisoned. A world where a cop could pull the trigger just because of your beautiful dark skin. A world where white will forever deny its privilege. In seven years or so sweetie, people are going to be afraid of you. They’ll run through red lights for fear of being on the same street in which you walk and play. And you’ll have to fight hard for your survival and even harder for their trust. But it’s worth it baby, it’s worth it. We need all the childlike love you have to offer, to teach our hard hearts to be kind.
As you fall asleep tonight, beneath the sacred stars, I’ll be singing with heartache and hope. I’ll be begging God for a world that will treat you right. And I’ll pray that you’ll be able to forgive us with your whole heart, when we fail you again.
Because you’re my brother.
And when I look at you, I see the face of God.