A year ago, I wrote this as we mourned for the pain of our city. A year later, she stirs, wakes, begins to rise.
Tonight, my children are sleeping, but from my roof I can see buildings burning. My children are sleeping, but I can hear the constant hum of helicopters and whine of sirens.
Still…my children sleep.
Other mothers in this city do not know where their children are.
Other mothers had to leave their houses, leave work, leave safety and plunge into the unknown to retrieve their children. They had to worry whether their children would make it home safe on the public busses that shut down and stranded students all over the city. Other mothers live near those burning buildings.
Other mothers have already lost their children.
Tonight before bed we talked to Grandma and Grampa, we played dress-up, we brushed teeth, put on pajamas, picked out stories. Ivy picked out Do Princesses wear hiking boots? Kip picked Professor Wormbog in Search for the Zipperump-a-zoo.
I needed a story, too.
I chose He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, by Kadir Nelson. I used to sing this book to my children every night. It was a gift for their Baptism. The Inscription from their Uncle Ben and Aunt Sarah reads, “Dear Kip and Ivy, on the occasion of your baptism, we are reminded that you are indeed in good hands, large and small. All our love…”
This beautiful book…
These beautiful children…
This beautiful city…
Make no mistake, she will rise. Do not judge her by the color of her flames, but the content of her character.
Her story will unfold not in the destruction of the night but in the creation of the days and weeks and months and years to come as we plunge into the unknown searching for her, determined to bring her home, bind up her wounds, hold her close, whisper prayers in the dark as she rests.
I often wake in the morning with ideas and insights my subconscious labored over in the night. This morning I came to consciousness with my son’s little body curled against me…and the image of dialogue groups scattered throughout the city throughout the summer in public spaces around public events.
Intentional, accessible conversations and reflections on the fringes of First Thursdays, or during Concerts in the Park, or after the public pools let out. All summer we will be gathering together. As we do, we will be wondering how to reconcile the beauty of humans together (which we see daily in our city) with the chaos of humans together (which we saw on Monday).
Why not wander towards each other so we can wonder out loud together?
Building bridges between communities, between generations, between races. Just. Between. …seems to be at least ONE solution towards the #OneBaltimore we are beginning to see emblazoned on poster board and message boards around our city and throughout social Media. To some, this may seem idealistic or unattainable, but there is a long standing method that facilitates this process…
…Speaking with each other.
Not speaking to or at or even for but WITH.
Too often when we gather with crowds, we go with our friends, and we stay with our friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, except that there is not a mechanism or space to make or invite new meaningful connections with others, even if we wanted to. Open spaces for dialogue surrounding public events could change that.
So how might this look?
I can imagine myself trekking up to the Pagoda on a Sunday afternoon, finding some shade a decent distance from the concert stage, laying down a few more blankets than I need, and propping up a poster that simply says “#BeMoreCircles :Speak and Listen here”. People wander over. Share some snacks. And get to wondering.
Perhaps we have weekly “Points to Ponder” suggested on a #BeMoreCircles Facebook page. Perhaps we’ve established weekly themes, so there is some continuity between these organic conversations that might pop up around the city. And perhaps afterwards people can take their insights from that physical meeting and share them in that virtual space. Continue the connections there. Build upon these new relationships.
For some this may feel like TOO much. For some, not enough.
Think of all that might go wrong!
What if someone just takes my snacks?
What if someone sits down and never leaves?
What if folks start arguing?
These are fair concerns. Something else to consider is the simple fact that even if we are gathering in public spaces, we are gathering in “our” public spaces. We are venturing to the events in “our” park, but we are likely unaware or uncomfortable venturing into “other people’s” parks. Are they safe? Am I welcome?
Something like this takes courage…and perhaps at least a little training.
I might mention, here, that I have a degree in conflict resolution, training as a multi-cultural educator, and have spent hours in and beyond the classroom locally and internationally sitting with groups of people and asking questions around culture, creativity, and conflict.
I only say this to acknowledge that the commitment to peacemaking is indeed a long journey and we are all at different places as we seek to understand the roots of conflict in ourselves and our fellow human beings.
But on a picnic blanket adjacent to a concert seems like a safe place to start.
If you are intrigued by this possibility, reach out. I’ve tagged a number of my peacemaking sisters and brother in this post hoping to get a conversation started. Asking what we need. Who we might partner with. How we might train folks quickly for a Baltimore Summer of Peace.