It is 9:35 p.m., my son and I just finished watching the grand jury announcement regarding the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Darren Wilson. I must say I have mixed emotions about the announcements. Regardless of how I feel about the decision, I respect the process and realize the grand jury surely was under some extreme pressure.
The question I ask myself is now what?
As a Christian….
Now I grieve for the Brown family. I can’t imagine what this mother and father are going through right now. I appreciate their courage to call for calm and honor their son through peaceful protest. Now we should pray for them and not let “how we feel” about the decision or the response to the announcement cloud the fact that a mother and father are still on the long road of healing. God is quietly working in this thick darkness to reveal his healing light.
As a Father….
Now as an African American male and father, I work hard at being hard on my son because I refuse to have him be a statistic. I refuse to. Now my resolve becomes deeper to speak deeply into my son’s life for him to make decisions that enhance the longevity of his life. So, now fathers, my African American male fathers, square away your son, look him in the eyes, and dedicate yourself again to nurturing a man who will have a long life in the land.
As an African American….
Now I say to my non-African American friends and citizens, what you saw in August and the response that you see in many cities are the utterances of dissatisfaction. Martin L. King said, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” African American people still have concerns about the justice system, incarceration, and police interaction. This perspective cannot be denied or swept under the rug. While riots function as the shouts of dissatisfied persons, now becomes the opportunity to stop, listen, and learn. Now take the time from your pulpits, in your workspaces, and in your homes to simply ask an African American, “What does it mean to live in America?”
As an African American to African Americans…
Now I say to my African American brothers and sisters, we are not less than human because of the grand jury announcement, problems in the justice system, or our current struggles. We are beautiful men and women with a victorious and difficult history in America. We are sons and daughters of Alphas, Omegas, and AKA, and Rho’s. We have ancestors who built colleges, designed Washington D.C., and established church congregations. We are the descendants of Civil Rights giants and musical genius. But more than that. We are men and women who have been fashioned in the image and likeness of God. He determines our value and worth. Neither a grand jury announcement, social condition, nor any other systems can rob us of the dignity that is inherent in all men and women.
In light of that reality of possessing and living as image bearers of God, let us be men and women of peace and communicate in a manner that demonstrates a passionate concern for ourselves and all people. We must learn to love and live together. We must love in way that teaches others who have no knowledge of our experiences to live sympathetically. We must love in a way that makes an enemy a friend and causes us to walk in the true spirit of justice which is mercy and forgiveness.
Dear Neighbor in the City,
I want to take a moment to write to you about the charitable work that you are about to embark on this holiday season. I feel it is important to share with you some concerns I have about food, gifts, and other items you feel is your duty or demonstration of grace to give to me and my family in the next two months.
We have had a very hard three years in the city. I have done my best to find work. From time to time I have had the opportunity to get some odd jobs and even some factory work. But as hard as I worked, I was told my services were no longer needed, the job quota had been filled, or "We are reducing your hours." Let me tell you, it is pretty hard to come home and tell my wife that I was let go. I see the disappointment and anger in her face as she simply goes outside, sits on the porch, and smokes a cigarette.
We had a home. Our two year old and seven year old each had their own rooms but the landlord had to go up on the rent so we had to settle for this two bedroom apartment. The bedrooms are small, the neighbors are extremely noisy, and the police are constantly in our area. One day my seven year old asked me, "Daddy, are we bad people...because the police are always in our neighborhood?" Well what do I tell my son? This is all I can afford between the odd jobs. I would love to give more but when you have little to nothing to give, what then?
Now the holidays are coming and let me tell you this is when it gets hard. Dented canned goods. Out of date meat. Bruised fruit and vegetables. I don't know about you, but I find it very hard to feel blessed as I am given a box of these items to take home with a "God bless you" and a smile. I wonder if this nice lady would take this home to her own family or would she complain?
"Should I complain? No, if I complain, I'll seem ungrateful. I'll just take what I get and go away."
See I don't understand how I receive used and broken items, outdated, dented, and bruised food. I know I am in need of help but my poor condition should not necessitate a poorly conditioned response. I hope that your giving of used and poor items to people like me does not mean we are less deserving.
I remember my grandmother used to tell me a story about God and how he gave his very best. I asked my grandmother, "Why did he do that?" Grandma looked me in the eyes and said, "Because he loves us son."
These holidays and these poor gifts don't remind me of love because grandma taught me when the best is given I know that I am loved.
So please, before you give away those stained clothes, out of date fruit, or incomplete games to families like mine this year, please consider giving the best gift in love.
A Father in Hard Times.