As you well know, Alton Sterling was shot and killed by a police officer at the Triple S Food Mart on North Foster in my home city. I watched the video a few times to see if I could decipher what occurred. Then the next day, I watched the video of Philando Castile's girlfriend and him bleeding out and dying before my eyes. I had to detach a bit knowing this was not a movie, this was real. I don't watch the news anymore because I have learned that it does not serve me well. It is mostly negative, and I have the tendency to stay in fear and foreboding and scarcity. I don't want to live in scarcity anymore.
I don't want to discuss what I think of the shootings, because it's just so much more complex than a simple "black and white answer." It is not cut and dry. I just know from listening that living in black skin can be a lot more difficult than for most people living in white skin. I know that racism exists and our community is hurting.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
While reading one of my friend's Facebook posts about going to a prayer vigil in a north Baton Rouge church last Thursday night, she described secondhand how much pain the black community was in and there was discussion of whether the white community cared. This broke my heart.
How do I show I care? What can I do to step out of my South Baton Rouge comfort zone?
This is where I am going to be really honest. Although, there is a desire to show up at a prayer vigil or some sort of protest to say, let's come together, I support you! I don't think I can.
I have fear.
Growing up and in a very small town, the mentality I developed was if you drive to New Orleans and get out the car, you were going to get shot. This goes for pretty much any large city. That is the impression I had and have lived with for most of my life. Don't drive in the bad parts of town. For that matter, when I'm walking the dogs at night in my own neighborhood, I get alarmed when a car drives by and I'm watching closely for something bad to happen.
As I have begun determining what I believe authentically, miraculously at the same time an ease has materialized in my day to day living. I realize how much anxiety and fear on a daily basis that I lived with. My mind was constantly afraid of every small action that I needed to take even when I knew what I needed to do, I didn't. I was afraid to speak up... anywhere. I was frozen in my tracks for as long as I can remember. This type of fear has to be taken down bit by bit over time. Exposure by exposure and by practicing, a lot of practicing.
Sunday morning, I went to my book study at church and one of the suggestions was to do your part where you are, with who was in front of you each day. And to examine your own beliefs, and where you may be contributing to the problem.
That morning, I learned that the three out of state groups that were scheduled to come and work our church's Revive 225 program this week had cancelled. Our church was looking for volunteers to do the house repairs of homes that are within a 5 mile radius of our downtown church. When I met up with my oldest daughter in the church gym, I looked at her without any prior planning and blurted out, "Do you want to work?" intuitively knowing that she would. Now, in my class the hour before, I had said out loud to the group, it's over 100 degrees outside, I can't do that, are they crazy? But what was really going on were the other fears in my mind. The north Baton Rouge fears... (and the heat too!)
But we signed up anyway.
We signed up on the youth page. Mallory was enrolled in a morning camp so we could work the morning shift. Baby steps. Later on that night, I watched the news just to see what was going on with the protests. There was a large confrontation between police and protestors with fifty arrests just a few blocks from our church...
But I knew I still wanted to go.
I told myself the protesters who were from mostly out of town, would be leaving. I was slightly anxious, but the kind that I've worked through before when I step out of my comfort zone. I awoke early, and worried about driving my car around north Baton Rouge.
But I knew I still wanted to go.
I knew in my gut, all would be well. We showed up at the first house and worked to remove debris that had been taken down previously. Our youth director mentioned that we were not that far away from the Triple S. (Alrighty then.) We went to a second house not far away and picked up more materials. At this point, Riley went with the rest of the youth group to work longer and I stayed behind in order to pick Mal up from her camp. I went in to the house to see if they needed help. Several church members were removing old ceiling tile and repairing it. I went to ask the homeowner for a broom. As I knocked to announce my presence in the room she was in, she got up with the warmest smile and presence and walked across the room with open arms and we hugged.
Those who go with the intention to "help others", end up receiving the blessing.
I didn't know I needed a hug that day, and the homeowner in north Baton Rouge gave it to me.
I didn't stay long, because there wasn't much for me to do, and I went to say bye to the homeowner. Of course, I forgot her name as I forget everything that I don't type in to Notes these days. But she remembered mine.
"Bye Miss Carol"
We mutually hugged again.
I feel less scared to go back another time. Baby steps.
At home that afternoon, I had the addresses in my GPS and I looked up where the Triple S Food Mart was from where we were. It was 1.2 miles away.
She lived 1.2 miles away from the deadly shooting and I am the one who received the hug. In actuality, I give myself credit that I immediately put my arms up when I saw her reaction.
Bit by bit, the fear and feelings of scarcity will cease and be overtaken by love.