One time, I threatened to beat the crap out of a tween.
True story, and it actually wasn't that long ago. There were a couple of tweens who were babysitting for one of the girl's nephews and they were terrorizing the poor kid at a playground. The girl was about 12-13 years old and the little boy was probably 2 1/2 or 3. (Just about the age of my little London...)
The girls were using horrific language, include racial slurs, and were forcing the poor baby down a big slide... one of those tall, dark, corkscrewing tube slides, and he was terrified. He was gripping the top of the slide like his life depended on it, screaming and crying, and the girls were just laughing at him and they were using their feet to try to push him down the slide. Something in me absolutely snapped.
I am not saying that this is how I should have handled it, but I walked over there and let 'er rip. I told this girl that she had absolutely no business spending time with her nephew if she is going to treat him like that. I asked them if they felt pretty big and bad because they could make a toddler cry. I called them miserable bullies and then I said that if I was that boy's mother that I would tear their faces off, and if I hear them use the N-word one more time in front of my children, that I actually will tear their faces off.
I can't say with 100% certainty, but I am about 95% sure that I committed a crime during all the threatening and the flailing. (Oh, did you not picture flailing? Trust me, these gangly arms went buck nutty. I don't think it helped my street cred, but I think I was subconsciously implementing a strategy I learned from camping in bear country... if you stumble upon a dangerous beast, make yourself appear as large as possible. So, when threatened, I flail a little.)
I don't know if the girls were scared or embarrassed or if they were just plain stunned by this interaction with a total wild woman, but they left pretty quickly after that and waited until they were a half mile away, before they started yelling their comebacks at me. By that time I had already returned to my also-stunned family eating dinner, and tried to explain why Mommy was "talking a little rough and rudely to the strangers."
I sort of think this is a metaphor for my whole life. I am not a person to sit on the sidelines, or to watch something go down that I don't think is right. I am just one of those people who is going to speak up or speak out. Trust me when I tell you that I am not bragging... clearly I don't handle situations correctly all the time!! But, I can't not try. There is just something inside of me that longs for justice and for peace.
I was reminded today from an old friend of my brother's how his death left so many young people with the devastating realization that in this world, there is rarely justice. This led to a huge march and a petition with thousands of signatures, all calling out for justice. We wore t-shirts and carried a banner donning the slogan "No Justice, No Peace." These words lit a fire in me then, and now, when things like this happen, and there is a victim who cannot speak for himself, I simply cannot help but speak from him.
Though I do not speak as politely as I should - I am working on that, I truly am. I wish that I could have gone to those girls calmly, with my arms staying down at my sides, and said to them "Ladies, I know that you probably lack parental guidance and maybe you were treated like this when you were little... but, what you are doing to this little boy is not right, and it wasn't right when people treated you like that either. Come now, let us hug it out and I shall retrain you on all the ways of behaving nicely at the playground." I want to be cool and calm and have superb control over my limbs at all times. But, even if I blow it sometimes, this thing in me, this mama-bear alarm that erupts in me at the sight of the helpless, is one of the few qualities about myself that I love.
The reality is that I am a work in progress and that I blow it, yes, but I have never regretted standing up for what I believe in. I have never regretted helping the underdog, trying to break up a fight, or to protect someone who is defenseless. I don't always handle it the right way, in fact I am sure I handle it poorly most of the time, but the actual drive inside of me to respond at all in a world that is sometimes so silent, is a gift from the God who created me for a purpose.
I spent a few hours on the phone with Adam's best friend earlier this month. He walked me through moment by moment the night that Adam was killed. He answered a lot of questions that I didn't even realize that I had. It was a painful conversation, but it was also a relief in a way. I could stop wondering about what happened to my brother that night, because every time I did... my victim alarm would sound so loudly it was deafening. My desire for justice will never be satisfied in the case of my brother's death, but I can honestly say that I think maybe we were wrong about our slogan. I think that peace doesn't come from justice at all... perhaps peace can only come from grace.
I might be wrong, but I have found that in this past month of extending kindness in the memory of my brother, and living in light of all of the beautiful graces God has shown me... I have had more peace than if I were still in the fight for justice. In my opinion, the man who killed my brother could have gone to jail for the rest of his life, and he would have gotten what he deserved. Justice would have been served, but I don't think that would bring my parents anymore peace in the loss of their only son.
I am finding that true and lasting peace only comes from living in light of and in response to the Greatest Act of Kindness that a very just and gracious God extended to me, through the loss of His only Son.
Day 28: We returned our library books with this attached to it. Sometimes speaking up for the underdog means threatening to tear the face off of a bully, and sometimes it means encouraging a librarian. But, no matter what speaking up ends up looking like... I think that I will modify our old slogan when I am bringing up my kids in this very unjust world. Perhaps instead of teaching them that there will be no peace unless there is justice, I will introduce them to the Prince of Peace, who is in charge of justice. No Jesus, No Peace... That has a pretty redemptive ring to it.