What do we want to do right when we witness the world go sideways? So many of us dig deep and desire to respond, act and maybe even make a difference. I know, I get that more than many, as I work with families on the brink of crisis, desperate to do something while making it meaningful through intervention.
Yet we stop. We get stuck. We get stuck in a sticky web with all the other creatures, unable to move and really do something meaningful, at least in our own narrative of events.
Announcements of arrest and homicide charges following the Maryland National Guard marching through Baltimore made us catch the news in all its glory. We witnessed ball games played in front of an audience of none, as the city continues to vibrate with the angst, hope, rage and anticipation that things will change.
Many have said the crisis in this city is simply a response to Freddie Gray, the young man who was remembered and put to rest on Monday after dying in custody of police. It is so much more than that. This vibe we are shaking from is generational trauma; it is racism and regret. The vibration of barely contained anger thumps from the streets into the soles of each soul standing until it reaches the heart and mind.
We ask: How might we get out of such a web that keeps us stuck as witnesses, unable to act? What might we do to intervene?
I've seen a mom physically pull her son out of a line of rioting boys and yank the ski mask from his head, yelling at him "Take that mask off!" I've watched that mom, Toya Graham, whose name we've now learned, interviewed by my friend and (great!) mom Gayle King on CBS this Morning, while wondering too, "What might we do to intervene?"
I've watched a generation of human beings, most of them people of color, trip into a punitive prison system, rigid and rough. I've gasped for breath, as the overwhelming emotion gripping the collective consciousness is deep, deep grief.
Grief is the normal response to sorrow, emotion and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you. When that loss is experienced on a community-wide basis, you have what's known as community grief. We hurt. We are confused. We are longing for change, some more self-aware of what that might mean and need and be, than others.
People in Baltimore have lost a sense of safety and trust in each other. Ferguson before them. Crown Heights before them. Selma, long before them.
The hurting we see in Baltimore right now will take a long time to heal, but facing the challenge that comes in the weeks, months and years ahead is what the practical work will involve. Some grief will turn to satisfaction as the cops are tried and justice is service, as we watch from our place on the web.
For me, in my movie, it always starts with an invitation to change. I have made that invitation to my friends, and enemies alike (yes, enemies) to make a place at the table for conversation and a change plan. That is the only way grief gives way to hope. In hope, the web melts away, freeing each one of us.
May we all grow and learn, throwing rigid rules and battleground beliefs no longer serving us, aside.
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