“My daughter, my daughter, I can’t find her. I can’t find her, she was just here.”
A small crowd started gathering around this distraught woman. We were at the Kite Festival in DC two years ago, and I was walking with my then 3 year old daughter. I inched closer to the sounds of this woman. I didn’t know exactly what happened and yet, almost like tingling spidey senses, I felt a familiar “mother’s worry”. My heart told me something was very, very wrong. I walked up to the woman and I asked her, “Are you okay?”
“My daughter,” she said. “My daughter, she was just here. She was just here.” She absentmindedly repeated these words, her feet planted firmly in their spot. She held one hand to her forehead and the other on her hip as she pivoted her neck back on forth, trying to see over the crowds, relentlessly pursuing her child with her eyes. It was like she was frozen in time, afraid to move in case her daughter came back, her gaze darting all over, trying to make sense of any direction among the droves of people.
My heart sank. I went back to my husband, instructed him to hold the kids closely and let him know briefly my mission and that I would be back. I returned to the woman and asked her to show me a picture of who we were looking for.
She handed me her phone and I laid my eyes on a beautiful brown, five year old girl, wearing a purple shirt. It was a picture her mom had snapped just a few minutes earlier.
I walked to every blanket strewn along the Washington Monument, careful to step over water bottles and belongings and the people blissfully ignorant to the terror unfolding near them. “Have you seen a young girl with a purple shirt? She’s lost. Her mom is looking for her.” I tried to speak up over the music and the announcers and the volume of people talking. I repeated it a thousand times until I began to hear that same question being murmured by an army of other parents, as more and more mothers with the same fearful nightmare questioned all in sight. It was louder there now, but no longer because of the joyful sounds of the festival, but rather the echo of that lost girl’s mother, heard through all of us as we took matters into our own hands. That mother didn’t move an inch from where she was standing, but her voice and her fear resounded through our mouths as we paced along the National Mall hunting for this girl.
After a good while of searching and questioning, I made my way back to the mother to see if there were any updates, JUST in time to see a stranger hand the child back to her mom.
It was in that moment that the girl’s mother was reduced to tears, grabbing her daughter by the shoulders, screaming thank you to I’m assuming God, and shaking violently at the feel of her daughter safely in her arms.
I felt my eyes burn hot and I turned my face away quickly to not give away my emotions, only to lock eyes with all the mothers around me who also began to cry. We crumbled with relief, tears flowing freely from all of us, our deep collective breaths rustling the leaves. We were able to see again and breathe again… and smile again.
Here is what is most moving to me about that: We knew no strangers in those moments. That girl was not our child. She wasn’t even a child we had met before. She wasn’t part of a family we had any sort of connection with. But every. single. one. of us felt within our soul the sheer terror of that mother. We picked our hearts up from where they had fallen by our feet and marched to the side of that woman because we didn’t have to have experienced that kind of loss to know what a tragedy it would have been.
Now imagine if you will, that (God forbid) her story did not have a happy ending with a safe return.
Imagine if any one of us there, while in pursuit of her whereabouts, would have seen someone hurting that child, or shoving her into a van, or pulling her by the shirt away from her family against her will. What do you think would have been the reaction of all of us there?
I wonder how many of us would have stood by passively? My guess is, there would have been a collective uproar, with shouts and screams, an aggressive chase on foot, and we would have all momentarily been transformed into an army ready to fight and rescue.
I wonder if anybody would have questioned why we weren’t remaining calm, or why we were moving so fast, or getting so angry, or not waiting to pursue “proper avenues” to bring a swift justice? I can’t see a world where anyone would question our drastic measures in that scenario.
Now here we are, witnessing the black men of our community being lost. Their families are frozen in terror, while what should be normal every day activities, become death sentences. They have waited patiently for far too long, and far longer than any one of us would have if it were our families being picked off before our eyes.
That little girl returned safely because we all became the eyes and ears and hands and feet of that mother. Not a single aggressor would have made it out alive if that child were being taken against her will, because the band of humans on that day wouldn’t have allowed it.
We may not call ourselves kidnappers, but if we witnessed a kidnapping and did NOTHING to try to stop it, then what are we? We may not call ourselves racist. But if we witness racism happen and do NOTHING to stop it, then what are we?
It is of upmost importance that we stand up with our black brothers and sisters and support the cause and support THEM. Of course nobody wants violence, and riots, and broken businesses, and flames! But how many of your children would you allow to be taken before you began to take matters into your own hands? How many ways would you try to get the attention of a vast majority who don’t even believe your words or dismiss the narrative of what you saw with your own eyes?
Those black boys and girls ARE our children. Those black men and women ARE our fathers and mothers. Don’t stand by while your family is being taken from before your eyes. Don’t question the means in which they pursue justice if all their prior efforts have fallen on deaf ears. Don’t belittle their reactions to murder, when it would have taken much less for you to fight if it concerned you.
We want the justice system to fight on our behalf, but sometimes that isn’t what happens, and it’s time to recognize that. After seeing that officer’s rap sheet, we all should question what forces and powers protected him for so long that he even made it long enough to have the opportunity to kill George Floyd? And what kind of justice was he so sure he would avoid that with a smugness, he suffocated a man even with witnesses blatantly recording him and openly challenging him? Tell me, what is the proper avenue for breaking down a confidence like that? I’m waiting.
I believe that God’s justice will rule over ours, but actions have earthly consequences. I will also not be held accountable before God for letting His family be treated this way.
So, I stand with you. #BlackLivesMatter