Another terrorist attack, another suicide vest, another automatic weapon. Another dangerous sea crossing for people whose country has literally exploded. A black life that doesn’t seem to matter. A truck plows through a crowd. Another shooting leading to more grief and anger and misunderstanding and one more step toward an armageddon that I don’t even believe in. Everyone points the finger of blame, but it always points outward.
Most of us just want to live our small lives peacefully. We aren’t particularly weaponized or angry. We are too tired after our long days of working to cause much mayhem. These days I try to stay on my porch.
Most of us care care deeply, but feel powerless to make any real change. Our hearts are just too broken. And we’re too afraid. We want to live our lives, and for others to be able to live theirs. We are just small, soft animals and there is too much terror. There is too much grief. There are too many women being raped and too many orphans sleeping in the mud. There are too many shootings and too much stupid politics. There are too many lies and too much greed. There is too much hunger. Too many animals are being abused or languishing in shelters. Too much destruction of the environment. Too many cars. There is no clear enemy to rally against. We are all the victims and we are all the enemy. We all think that we are the good guys.
Just after the earthquake in Haiti, I took my brand new nursing skills and tried to help. Late one night on the road into Port Au Prince, traffic stopped and things seemed tense. Our guides and interpreters placed us in the middle of the car, so that their beautiful brown faces were the most visible from outside. They put themselves between us and possible danger. I wish we could do that here. I want to drive young black men to the movie theater or the grocery store. I want to make lemonade for their mothers. I want to have magic powers to lift the tension. I want to stand behind police officers who are against violence. I would put my warm hand in the middle of their backs, near the heart, so that they could feel me there and be less afraid.
But because I haven’t found a way to do these things, I don’t want to leave my porch. It is a sanctuary amongst the green summer plants and the bird songs. It’s a seven by fifteen foot oasis where I sit in my wicker rocker, with the cat snoozing on one side, and the dog snoring on the other. I’m sure many refugee women had porches and terraces and yards where they felt safe and peaceful. They had plants and birds nearby, and maybe even cats and dogs.
I would offer those who are touched by violence a chair, some tea, and a warm cat. I wish the things I have to share could really help. I have love and songs and tea on the porch, but no way to deliver them. If I had endless wealth and a magic wand, I would buy all the run down rust belt homes in my area, renovate them, and move the fearful and homeless and weary of the world into them. I would fill their refrigerators with fresh food. I would buy them warm clothes for the winter and create work that offered joy and dignity. I’d provide them with musical instruments and paint and canvas. I’d bring them warm tomatoes and too many zucchinis from the garden. I’d learn all the languages, so that I could understand a joke no matter who was telling it. I’d create an army of mothers and puppies and beautiful things to envelop the world and heal the insane wounds that perpetuate the violence. I’d dust us all with a little amnesia and a lot of forgiveness.
But I can’t do those things, so I sit on the porch listening to the neighbor practice the flute, and the butternuts bouncing off the garage roof. I can’t save anyone. No matter how loud or political or unlike myself I become, I am powerless to change the advancing and enormous cruelty of the world. I don’t know the magic words. I am not a mover or a shaker. I am a gardener and a dog walker and a warm hearted napper. And I make a vow to myself. If I find a way to truly offer safety and comfort, I will do so. If I can protect a black life, harbor a refugee, protect an animal, save a habitat, encourage a fearful police officer I will do it. In the same breath I am frightened by all the normalcy in my little world. Why am I so lucky? Will it last? Will there be someone to comfort me if danger comes to my street?