This morning, reading my Facebook feed, so full of hate and anger, disappointment, apathy, and ignorance, I felt tired. And completely ill-equipped to speak anything close to wisdom. I don’t know what should have happened in Ferguson last night—not precisely.
But driving my husband to work this morning, listening to my daughters argue in the back seat, the conversation becoming less and less productive as the volume of my seven-year-old’s voice rose, I thought maybe I did have something to offer. Not something for the people in Ferguson (I doubt they’ll read this). But perhaps something for you and I. Something Ferguson can teach us about being human in the community of humans.
All I heard was my oldest, and what I heard was painfully familiar.
"EEEEVVVEEEE!" she yelled.
I looked back to see Eve had stepped on London’s blanket, a simple infraction, likely accidental.
But London’s yelling turned a switch inside Eve and I saw her face settle into anger. Eve pushed her foot to the car floorboard, blanket beneath it, and began rubbing the sole of her shoe into the cotton.
"EEEEEEEEEVVVVVVVVEEEE!!" London yelled louder, yanking the blanket from Eve. As London yanked, Eve fell back against something, bumped her head, and began to wail.
If I had been a good mother, this is where I would have stepped in, but I couldn’t because I was taking notes…
Later, I told London, “If you hadn’t yelled at Eve, she wouldn’t have messed up your blanket.”
And London said, “If she hadn’t stepped on my blanket, I wouldn’t have yelled.”
And both those things are true.
But if we want to live in community with other people, someone is going to have to do the right thing, the generous thing, the merciful, graceful, LOVE thing. And they’re going to have to do it first.
Personally, I think the eldest bears guilt in this situation. Because she was the one with power. But Eve is not innocent.
I tell married couples, Love hopes. I didn’t make that up; God did, of course. And I tell them that means when your husband’s coming home late, believe the best about why. I tell husbands, when she disappoints you, believe that one day she won’t. I tell them, when you’re in an argument, don’t assume she’s only thinking about herself. Assume she’s thinking about you. Assume she loves you. Assume she’s rooting for you.
People sometimes tell me that’s naive.
I tell them, “That’s love.”
Love works. It’s like a magic key for life. If you have it and you use it, life is better. Not just better, right. Life in love works as it should. People get along. Cooperation happens. Forgiveness spills. Joy blooms.
Take away the love, substitute it for some not-as-good alternative like equality, respect, or tolerance, and everything starts to break down.
Am I going to relentlessly simplify here and say Michael Brown’s death and the subsequent rioting happened because people didn’t love one another? Of course I am. Because it’s true.
And if love were this intangible feeling we couldn’t manufacture, that would be a simplistic and unhelpful explanation.
But because love is entirely doable, practical, and accessible, that explanation is the first step toward a solution.
I have no interest in talking about what people in Ferguson should do. I have opinions on what law enforcement should look like, but my readers aren’t in charge of that stuff (by and large). I’m not either.
My readers are people like you (and me), people who will eat lunch with a toddler today and clean spaghetti up off the floor, people who will sit in traffic this afternoon and try their hardest to be patient, people who pay too many bills, people with neighbors who look and act differently than they do, people who sit on city councils and people who lead churches.
So for my readers: you need to know Ferguson isn’t as far away as it seems. Ferguson happens, just a little, every time we choose anger instead of grace, every time we speak harshly, every time we withhold forgiveness, every time we grab for what’s “rightly ours” instead of offering what we’re privileged to give. And every time we assume the worst about what another person is going to do.
Today, you have the opportunity to love other people.
Every time you hear about Ferguson, every time you read a status about it or listen to the radio or overhear a conversation, take a moment to commit to love. To assert your desire to hope, to believe the best about other people, to give instead of grab, to be patient, and kind, to not be rude, to seek the good of others and not yourself…
Today, pray. Pray for Ferguson, absolutely. Pray for healing and hope. But pray for yourself, too. Pray that God would fill you with His Spirit and grow in your heart His fruit. Love.