The last three weeks and especially the last three days are ones that likely none of us will ever forget. We will all be able to remember the moment we found out what was happening on that horrible Sunday morning. We’ll remember the fear. The anger. The confusion. The disbelief. The incomprehensible pain. Like you, we at Red Stick Moms have been grappling with these complex emotions mixed in with the reality of the closeness of the situation. This happened HERE. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Our home. Since we are writers, many of us felt a kind of release through expression of the written word. Here is what was on our hearts and minds.
It isn’t very often that I am at a loss for words. These past few weeks have been extremely difficult in our community and I am left stunned by what has transpired in this city we love. As I rocked and squeezed my son tightly before putting him down for his nap today, I looked at his innocent little face, combed through his soft curls and whispered: “I hope you always know just how much you are loved. I hope that you take the love given to you and share it with others. I hope that you are fair, righteous and kind. I hope that you stand up for what you believe in. I hope that you never let hatred win. But most of all my sweet baby boy, I hope you live with your eyes wide open, help where you can, lead where you can and know that love, kindness and compassion will always prevail even in the most uncertain of times.” My prayers are with all of the affected victims and their families of the recent tragic events in our city. May we rise above it all as one unified community.
I cried today, looking at more faces of men whose lives were taken, praying for their families and asking God to comfort them, at the same time feeling relief for my friends whose husbands were safe. But in the wake of the tragedies that have threatened to divide our city in the recent weeks, I refuse to let fear win. Instead, I want to love harder-my family, neighbors, and people around me. People are hurting everywhere; let’s all show an abundance of kindness, no matter the circumstances.
I’ve never been good at grief. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism because I tend to overthink everything and my brain knows it might be too much for my heart to bear. The last two weeks for me have been full of tears, questions, and self-reflection. My heart has broken and continues to break for the children who have lost fathers and the mothers who have lost sons. I’ve questioned this city and my place in it. And I admit, I’ve come up partially empty. But I hope we can all humble our hearts and listen more than we talk. To seek first to understand each other without judgement so that we can best learn how to work together toward healing. I’ve decided to give more smiles, more patience, and more grace to everyone I come across. To build relationships with those whom I may not otherwise have met. And I pray every night for this city of ours. May we make it a place where we are proud to raise our children and call home.
July 17, 2016 is a day that for me will be burned into my brain and heart forever. We spent the majority of the morning in a lock down at our church that is about a mile from where the active shooter was. This also just so happened to be our new senior pastor’s first Sunday- one crazy day! My kids and I attended an extended prayer service during this time when our pastor reminded us that God called us to be peacemakers. For me and my family, that is what we chose to focus on. Going out and being a peacemaker in this city. I want my kids to be the shining light in our world. I want our city to come together and unite! I currently feel numb, confused, and anxious but know that love will win. I am praying for our law enforcement, their families, our kids, our families and our city. Let us share love and be peacemakers.
Speechless. Angry. Sad. Confused. Frustrated. Scared. The emotional roller coaster of the past few weeks has been surreal. If I had to choose just one word to describe my own personal state of mind, though, it is anxious. As a mother raising 3 delicate and precious children, all under the age of 5, I am absolutely wrought with anxiety these days. Anxiety is not new to me as a mother. As newborns, I worried they’d stop breathing and checked them relentlessly. But this worry is much different. It’s other worldly, really. I am now anxious that we will be caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I am anxious about how to raise them “correctly,” meaning how to talk about the really hard stuff. Sex at this point sounds like a freaking cake walk. Give me the birds and the bees talk all day long. But how do I explain to my children that some people are so full of hate that they’d rather lash out and use violence against innocent people than make amends peacefully? Part of me wants to run away to an island or just turn off all the devices and shield them from the evil. But then I feel guilty because how lucky we are to have said devices and to even consider “ignoring” these deep and divisive problems. And so the other part of me seeks to talk and understand and learn … and then open the conversation – in simplistic preschool terms of course – with my little ones. I know in my heart that running and hiding and ignoring is NOT the answer. That would be letting the devil win. But I am still personally searching for the tools and the words and the forum to open the dialog and do my part. In the meantime, I worry at all hours of the night about the world in which we are raising kids.
Of course it’s something you never think will happen to your community. Especially after being an example of what peaceful protests should be. But it did. It happened down the street, where we fill up on gas and get our cars washed. It’s not just another news story now. We’re living it. We’re searching to find out if someone we know was harmed. The officer that guards our places of employment, a coworker’s husband, or the officer that flashes his lights because he knows it makes my son smile – it could have been any of them. Suddenly that petty argument with your husband or your mile-long to do list means nothing. And you can’t help but have fear when you’re out for the evening walk. Because it did happen in your community. It’s a numbing, broken feeling that I can’t even compare to those that lost someone yesterday. But everyone in this community lost something yesterday. Where do we go from here? We’re putting the most important things first. We’re throwing out the to-do list and spending time together, loving one another. Baton Rouge lost a lot on July 17. Let’s not lose love.
The death of Alton Sterling helped many people see their greatest fear. For me, it was seeing how blind I have been to white privilege and know more deeply what my pastor means when he says “we are all recovering racists.” I wanted it to be as simple as police brutality all while finding ways to play down how bad it actually was. Then the Dallas shootings happened. And now our own city is at the center of death and sadness again … I’m just numb. I haven’t known any of the victims or their families personally, and for six years I lived in a neighborhood in DC where “gunshots or fireworks” was a game we played many weekend nights.
I’m calloused. I’m numb. I’m sad. I don’t know how to show proper outrage. I feel a weird tinge of guilt for all the ways I haven’t mourned. I question what I, as one single person, can do to make any of this better.
So, I pray. I pray for my heart to be soft to the pain of others. I pray that people might find hope outside of this very mortal earth. I pray that my city will find new ways to gather together and overcome the confusion and hurt. I pray that we learn to love people who are different than us better than we love ourselves.
My hope is that these deaths, while awful, are not in vain. From Mr. Sterling to the police officers, let their deaths serve as the end of horrible and the beginning of the unity this city has before her. Let these tragedies shine the light on all of the compassion of which we’re capable.
I’m not a native of Baton Rouge. I have lived here for less than 10 years. In that short time though, I have grown to love it and call it home. The traditions, the activities and the camaraderie are addicting. I don’t think I could leave if I tried. The events that have transpired over the last few months are heart wrenching. Turning on the news and seeing OUR city shown in such a horrific way isn’t easy. The city I have adopted as my own is at war, and it saddens me so much. The lives that were last here recently were all important, none more than the next. This has to stop. I want my kids to grow up knowing Baton Rouge as the amazing place that it is and nothing less.