This post doesn't have anything to do with Anna June. But maybe it does.
I just want to stop and thank God for the many blessings that I have - her included. I am so incredibly fortunate to have such a blessed life of relative comfort and ease. If you read this blog often, you would think that all I do is complain. I complain about my lack of sleep, AJ's tantrums (and her lack of sleep), the fact that my kid is spoiled rotten and sometimes doesn't listen to me, and so on and so forth. I have gone on for days about the misspellings and poor grammar of colleagues. I complain when it rains, when it is too hot, and when it is too cold.
But nothing could be further from how my heart really is.
I am grateful and blessed, and most of the time, filled with hope. I am lucky to be in the midst of friends who will always give me a shoulder to cry on (or hold my hair when I'm puking), and family who has always been there for me - this includes my wonderful in-laws...all of them. I love living in my hometown where I'm minutes from my grandparents, parents, aunt, uncle, siblings, siblings-in-law, and now niece and nephew. I love this city, where I work a block from where one great-grandfather drove a streetcar, and another great-grandfather had his very own real estate office.
But today, I am sad. I am really, really sad.
I am so sad for my city.
Last Sunday, a child was murdered in Railroad Park. No information, at this time, has been made public about the case. We have no idea if the shooting was random or not. All we know is a fifteen-year-old child named Jarmaine Walton was gunned down, and he died. Kids were playing nearby. It was a place we take our kid. It lies blocks from my office and Ben's office as well. This is not OK. Other teens, other children, have died in our area by gun violence, but this death stands out starkly because it was in a place that we love for a reason that we don't know. An editorial by local writer and blogger Edward Bowser is here, giving a good perspective on the matter.
We are not going to stop going to Railroad Park. The park didn't shoot Jarmaine. We are going to keep working with our child and the other children at her school to ensure they don't grow up to be the kids behind the guns. That, and prayer, is about all we can do.
These basketball players from Wenonah High School made a Public Service Announcement about the violence. In essence, it says that these kids want the violence stopped. They dream of college, and basketball, not guns. As lawmakers and lobbyists try to figure out what to do about guns, here's my suggestion: keep them away from children. Period. This shooting is unacceptable.
But it's not just guns that are killing children.
On Friday, a woman and her four children were walking through the Birmingham airport when a 300-400 pound sign fell on top of them, trapping them. Eight or ten bystanders had to pull the huge thing - a "flight arrivals" deal with screens - off of them. One of my faculty members, who was returning from a conference in New Orleans, walked past the scene with his wife. He said that rescue workers were everywhere, and there was a lot of blood. A ten-year-old little boy has died. This accident, too, is unacceptable.
I can't even think about the cause of it right now, likely having something to do with the recent renovations in the terminal I've heard called "beautiful". I can't think about the lawsuits that will fly, the jobs that will be lost, the headlines that will follow. I am only thinking about a mother who lost a child today. I don't know the family (or do I? The names haven't been released.) but I am thinking about the incredible pain that must be felt by the airport mother and Jarmaine Walton's mother - these two ladies woke up those mornings with sons and went to bed without them. How devastating. How inconceivable.
How do you navigate this world? In this week, in this town, two innocent children have died out in public where people are riding bikes, toting suitcases, picking flowers, collecting souvenirs. I don't know how we can go about our business.
We are not promised tomorrow. We only have today. We have this one minute, this one hour, this one day to tell our families and friends that we love them. We care for them. We want to keep them safe, if only to keep them with us. We pray for their safety. Yet, in the end, we can do very little to keep them out of harm's way.
All we can do is love each other. Let your families know that you love them, so if, God forbid, you are the one taken from them, they'll know, and have your good memories, inspiration, and spirit about them. We have to keep moving forward for the ones that cannot. In their memories, we must work to create a better city and a better world. We must teach children that violence is not OK, and the phrase "good enough for government work" must be eliminated from our vernacular.
I am so, so sad. I will let myself be sad today.
Tomorrow I will go back to being hopeful. I will find some small thing to think about and delight in, most likely having to do with a certain exuberant 5-year-old, who runs everywhere and sings constantly. I will be glad it is spring break, and that my mother-in-law is visiting, and I'm getting new windows installed on a house I love in a neighborhood I love in a city I love.
May God bless the grieving mothers, here in Birmingham and elsewhere in the world, where children have left this world too soon.
And may God bless all the rest of us, too, as we grieve with them.
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