In This House: One Small Step to Reconcile My Peaceful Inside with the Raging Outside

I wake up and it is peaceful in my little world. Sun streams through kitchen windows, birds chatter, joggers huff past and cars rattle by. Folks headed somewhere. To where? I suppose I really don’t care, because right now it is peaceful and quiet in my world.

Music lofts high in the background. Coffee steeps. Ever-growing children breathe soft, even breaths as rays attempt to squeeze past tightly closed shades.

I like this world. The one where four walls encapsulate all I hold dear. My hopes and dreams find life and safety here. 

But just outside, around the bend, in the neighboring county or in “some other place” I hear whispers and rumors of something far less serene. Whispers turned cries of injustice and shouts of distrust.

Images flash like lightning, of killings, thunderous stories of murder. I’m not sure I totally understand the difference because either way you slice it, mamas, wives and girlfriends grieve and men are dead. 

Black men. Dead.

Police officers. Dead.

And all for what? My mind is mud. All I can conjure are fuzzy thoughts of heated arguments, misunderstanding, highly charged emotions unleashed into an atmosphere of anger and fear.

My heart loses footing, my chest constricts and I am struck dumb.

These recent deaths tip my thoughts into an abyss that swirls with senseless violence, mass shootings, refugees running for their lives, knocking on doors begging someone, anyone to take them in. One story threaded to the next. 

I don’t know how to reconcile the hostile outside with my peaceful inside. 

I don’t know if I even want to. Can we just stay here forever? In this house, arguments and emotions rise, but eventually fall again because we know each other. We trust each other. We love each other. At the end of the day, we don’t fear a wild hand or rogue bullet. 

The African man-child that looks down at me these days might bristle for a moment under a corrective word, but ultimately circles back around with a smile and a kiss on the cheek. We have worked hard and loved much to convince him he is safe. In this house. 

His hopes and dreams find sacred breath. In this house, there is no need to fear.

But just outside these walls, I am told this may not be the case. Social media bleeds death and destruction down my screen. Tears of grief and outrage beg to be understood. To be seen, recognized and held. 

People say we need to talk. We can’t just sit idly by. We need to say something, do something....

But what??

I’m a white mama raising two African-born kids. Culture tells me I’m at a distinct disadvantage. My white privilege prevents me from really knowing how do this thing. For some reason I get the feeling that I need to protect the “he” more than the “she” in our family. Is that true? Is my son more susceptible to judgment and violence than my daughter? Will she skate by unscathed because of her sweet little face and pixie-like frame? Because she’s a girl?

What do I do?

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I start in the only place I really know. I start with the basics -- for all my kids. With a core curriculum of love, respect and kindness. With a basic belief that all of these are inalienable human rights both inside and outside our home. That in all things we seek to understand before clamoring to be understood.

What, if anything, can I do to make this world a better, safer, more loving place? I suspect this is the question mamas have been asking since the dawn of time.

Do I check out more books from the library? Watch more viral videos? Analyze more hashtags? Listen and engage in more inter-racial relationships and conversations? Fall to my knees and pray? 

I believe the answer is — yes.

But that yes cannot overwhelm. Because if it does, I too am sunk. I must put one foot in front of the other and take one step at a time.

I hug harder and love deeper than I ever have before. I cry out to the God of the Universe, to Jesus who hung on the cross, who himself was murdered and left for dead, to the one who descended into hell and rose again to sit at the right hand of the Father. I cry out to Him for justice and mercy and peace and understanding. 

When my mind whirls and twirls with more questions than answers, I often unload on my sweet husband. What do we do? I say. How do we engage?  My eyes get wild and thoughts frenetic. In all his wisdom, he says, the first thing you need to do is start writing.

So that’s what I’m doing. One thought, one feeling at a time, I write. There are no tidy bows in this scenario. Only a woman writing in pencil. Knowing circumstances change in the blink of an eye, I write and rewrite because I know this is only the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that we are white parents raising black children and white children. Lots to learn and much to lay at the foot of the cross. 

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I believe some sort of spiritual healing comes in the kneading of the dough, of the process and the asking of questions of the Lord and of my fellow human family. As the leaven rises so does something inside of me. So I knead on in hopes that some semblance of wisdom and direction will take shape. 

Christina's Take:

I've just been aching to hear words like these, Megan.

I, too, am left feeling inept, confused, and also silent about the latest round of tragedies happening outside my little safety zone. Maybe our lives involve so much of a sense of control (money, time, community, news feed etc) that when these civil rights and gun control matters surface with tons of opinions and few concrete actions to solve, we are just paralyzed, But we live in a world where the control we have is such a facade. I am grateful that you were able to put words to a reality in our time. And I love your African-male child - he is complex enough as it is without the world making his life even more complex. No tidy bows. But thankful for this reminder today.

Holly's Take:

I feel completely unequipped to raise our little African ball of spirit. I can still barely do her hair, let alone try to infuse her with doctrine on being black in a white family and community. When we pass by an African American family, she will lose her way, as she stares and wonders. I see it on her face. I'm sad for her. I'm positive I'm part of the problem here. I see the images and hear the stories of black police men being shot, or black men being killed by cops. I'm mad, but it doesn't feel as personal as it should.  I pretty much forget that Macie is black. That she could be a target of some kind, someday. I don't want my naivety to hurt her, but I really don't even know where to begin. What are the conversations that people are having?  Do we have different conversations with our white kids verses our African kids? Probably not, but they will hear what we say from a different point of view, I bet.  I can't believe that it was such a short time ago that Rosa Parks sat on that bus. I can't imagine raising a little African just a few decades ago.  Wow!  Strange to think about!