So I struggle with many aspects of American Christian culture (whole ‘nother conversation), but pretty much the only radio station the kids and I listen to in the car is K-LOVE, a Christian music one. First of all, no commercials (although I often think I’d gladly endure them during the biannual pledge drives). Second of all, it really is all positive and encouraging, as their jingle suggests. Maybe I’m just compromising between children’s song CDs and Mumford & Sons. Anyways, we listen to and from school, each and every day.
And so today we are driving. I’m feeling so, so thankful that today is a school day. I’m wondering how in the world I will manage all summer without the knowledge that I can drop these sweet babies like little, chestnut-haired hot potatoes and curl up in my cave of solitude for 6 hours times 3 days a week. That equals like so much quiet.
And then this song comes on by Matthew West. It’s one that Maddy particularly likes to sing along to, so I turn it up. The first few lines play, and she and Gabe are singing the words:
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery…
And I hear Maddy say, in the way way back, really almost to herself,
“There isn’t slavery anymore.”
And I watch Gabe, with his tiny spaced front teeth and his round face and curly blond wisps, mouthing the words, singing quietly, almost to himself, the next part:
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
When I first became a parent, really, even before Maddy was born, I remember feeling a tight panic in my chest that someday this innocent creature would discover the disgusting underbelly of this world. She, with her tininess and sweet smelling head, would be introduced to concepts and words and acts and history and present that would cause her hurt and confusion, fear. I felt sorry, personally responsible, that I couldn’t offer her a better world.
And so, when I heard her say today that slavery doesn’t exist anymore, I knew she was speaking truthfully from her world, her knowledge. It doesn’t. She’s learned about the history of our African American brothers and sisters and she knows those ways have been abolished in her neighborhood, school, state.
The words to the song give me goose bumps.
If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something
I know there is still slavery, although, man, is it hard to really, truly, gut-level believe. I’ve heard the statistics, jarring as they are, that there are more slaves now than any other time in history. I know it’s not a problem just in far off distant countries that seem planets away, although in actuality those places are only mere steps and dirt and water from my home. But also, by that scale, then just inches and molecules from my front door are the same atrocities. Oh my God.
And so, in minutes I’m transformed from a tired Mama, eager to drop off her children at their schools, to a woman overcome by the vulnerability in which we are asked to live. Unthinkable. Inhumane, really. These terrible things exist, HAPPEN, and no one can stand square before me, nail me in the eye, and promise, swear, that they will not happen to myself, my husband, my children, any of my people.
And we’ve all decided we’re ok with this?
But even as the panic rises in my chest (how will I drop them off today?), even as I breathe a prayer over the boy’s school, a benediction over Maddy’s school, even as I pause as long as I dare and watch Maddy bounce through the doorway with a backpack that still looks too big for her 8 year old body, even still, another thought, wispy and weak, tries to form.
The thought tells me that, yes, one day Maddy will need to know that slavery does still exist. That day may be really, really soon. Yes, I need to figure out how in the heck I can, we as a family can, indeed, “do something.” But the thought not fully materialized offers this: in Maddy’s world, slavery does not exist. For her, it doesn’t. So there is that. There is the fact that my daughter sees and lives in peace. Gosh, I feel like I am treading on sacred space here. Must step carefully. Must remove my shoes so I don’t track dirt, and I know even now my feet aren’t clean enough.
Those who fought, those who are fighting, those who are trapped in unspeakable circumstances must have one common goal, wish, mission, burning need: to be free. To offer freedom. To live and let live in peace. And I, and my husband, and Madalyn and Gabe and Graham are living in that peace, that place. We are. And, oh God please, we will continue to do so.
I know that’s not everything. But it is something. And by my self choosing and then teaching my children to choose peace every day, we are quietly winning. We are quietly waging war. We are quietly offering peace.
It’s not nearly enough. But it is one thing.