There’s a call that too many get. It’s the call that changes your world forever. My call came in at 11:36pm July 18, 1989. It was my grandma on the other end of the line. I could hear her tear hoarse voice softly speak into my ear; “Walter was killed in a car accident”. My 17 year old brother was dead. Even at 19 I knew my world would never be the same.
Today I stood among a crowd filled with moms, sisters, brothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, grandparents and friends who either received that life changing call or had to make that call. Their call, like mine, told them that someone they loved had been taken from them too early; ripped from their lives forever. Unlike my loss, theirs was from an act of violence committed by another person. Whatever reasoning or lack thereof, that had led to its commencing, this one singular act of violence doesn’t stop there. It ripples out over and through those affected, sometimes in tidal waves and sometimes in slow rhythmic pulses, but always there; forever. Today’s walk was designed to rally people behind the idea of peace. People present spoke of respecting each other. They spoke of education. They spoke about loving each other. They professed that it’s the civil group’s actions that carry the most weight; working with law enforcement and speaking up when something seems amiss. Mostly they spoke of the aching hole left in their hearts. Yet I also witnessed a strength in these people who seemed stronger than humanly possible. I saw two moms each holding the other as if letting go would result in falling over. They appear fragile and one, in fact, when faced with speaking of her daughter’s murder buries her face into her friend’s shoulder. This only strengthens the words flowing out of the other mother’s mouth whose son was murdered as well. She confidently speaks for both families.
I saw John Edmond, the father of Amaia Edmond stand beside the humble man whose body now holds the liver of his deceased daughter; both so thankful that the little girl blessed so many people in her short time on earth.
I heard the new police captain, Daryl Green speak of his loss of a close uncle, a brother really, he tells us, after he was shot in New York. Later I witnessed him wiping away tears while listening to the tragedies experienced by others present. I listened as Council woman Jody Washington, she herself a victim of violence, name the 20 people in her ward that were homicide victims in the last four years.
I heard the angelic, solo voice of a young girl sing The Star Spangled Banner for all those gathered in the parking lot of Resurrection Church.
This crowd of over 100 turned out on a cold Saturday afternoon because they felt strongly that something should be done about the violence in the Lansing community. They represent a wave, that slow and steady wave that will wash over the city with hope and peace.
Keep the Peace, Stop the Violence.
Life is hard and it definitely isn’t fair. The longer I live the more injustices I witness. I see crimes committed against innocent people. I have seen diseases strike for no apparent reason. It seems that many struggle with just the basics in life. It can make anyone become tough skinned and resilient. For some these struggles begin early in life and creates a hardness to their thinking; a hardness to their heart. I think it can create a sense of taking as much as they can because no one will give it. It creates a sense of territorial self reliance. It can also create hostility towards others. It saddens me to see people living like this. Even worse, it’s devastating when this temperament is emanating out of a young child’s eyes.
The movie The Blind Side was cheered for its idea of saving someone that everyone else tossed aside. It was a great idea, honorable even. For some reason it bothered me. It wasn’t Sandra Bullock’s accent; I think she’s incredible; it was that it was only one child! One! There are millions out there that need this attention; need to feel that someone really loves them, without conditions. Well that’s a biggie, isn’t it? But I know we can do better. It’s not all that hard to change the tide; make good ripples; pass it forward. I saw examples of that last winter when people went to stores and paid for someone else’s layaway. I have a friend who doesn’t have children. She and her wife and a couple of friends requested donations for Christmas. They took that money and went around town doing good things. They paid off a few layaways and then went to Meijer and helped a few shoppers buy their food. All of the recipients had a need. All of them were overly appreciative. And all of them had not ever expected that someone, a stranger, would be that generous.
Here in Lansing we have a secret group of do gooders called the Lansing Ninjas (coincidently they came up on a chat window as I was writing this!!). Their acts are simple yet positive. They agilely move through our town with unprovoked acts of goodness. They swiftly locate a community member and leave behind a needed gift and a note. Later they produce an informative and often moving blog post about their ventures. It’s simple, it’s fun and it’s good. It’s a much needed balance for the negative news permeating the media.
Another group I participate in is Lunch With a Purpose. They willingly and even eagerly meet at a place of need, usually a charity, to help that group for an hour. We’ve put price tags on hand beaded sandals from Tanzania for the Shining A Light group, saving them 20 hours of work (20 volunteers*1 hour=20 hours). We’ve helped pull weeds to ready an urban garden. We’ve organized books at the East Lansing Library for their fundraisers. We’ve wrapped white pine saplings in burlap for Earth Day Lansing. We’ve addressed envelopes for the Nyaka Aids Orphan project. I could go on, and maybe I should. It’s easy to be the do gooder. Really. Try it. Smile at a stranger and feel their stress level go down. Give someone a genuine compliment and watch their eyes light up. The next time you speak with a child squat down to their level and watch their respect and admiration for you increase. Hug someone you love.
It really is true; Give and you shall receive. But even more importantly, when you give, someone else receives.
Here are a few other groups that are working to make life better for others (The Lunch With a Purpose Website lists many groups serving the community as well):
New World Flood
Allen Neighborhood Center
City Rescue Mission
The Greater Lansing Food Bank