Archive for October, 2010
Eyanna Flonory was loved by many people. She was just 21, learning to be an adult. She had gone to Bunker Hill CC. She had a bent to study criminal justice. Her bright-eyed, son Amanihoteph Smith , was a gregarious 2 year old. Simba Martin (21) was Eyanna’s new boyfriend.
The rain drove down from low, dark clouds. The ground was saturated with water. The water blipped from the sidewalk, pounded off the church roof, seeped around highly polished shoes. It rained for hours before dawn, the hour before Eyanna and Amani’s funeral, during the burial and afterward. It seemed the insurmountable rain of a tempest minus the howling winds. Simba had been buried 2 days ago.
I went to the funeral of the 2 victims at the Baptist church in Mattapan, just 2 blocks away from the murders. Three of us from Friends Meeting went. The head minister, Bishop Borders, spoke of galvanizing the community to stop such violence. “I will go on a retreat and pray for one year. I am not the same person as I was last week….I’m asking God to change the city of Boston,” he prayed.
‘Yanna’ had many friends and an adorable child. Both were bright and eager. Not eager for death. The rains portended the rage that many felt because of Yanna’s death. The bloated leaden clouds witnessed our fear. The two were killed by gunfire while mother held her toddler. Four deadÂ and one with a bullet in his head who is hanging on for his life at Boston Medical Center.
This city is filled with sleek cars; we have Astroturf football fields; we have I pads and social networking. We carry around encyclopedias on small chips. We have Ben Affleck and John Hancock. We access a library of music by pushing a button and using earphones. But we are short sighted and hard put.
Because we don’t have ‘Yanna studying justice at college. We don’t have Amani giving his sponge painting to his grandmother. We don’t know who killed these 4 people, in short order on a street in Mattapan. But it’s not totally the murderers fault. We accept our children carrying guns. In 2010 almost 50 people have been killed on the streets of Boston; another 26 in MA have been killed in their homes. This is an increase from the death toll of 2009. So as a people we are spilling more blood, much of it our children’s.
What a crazy way we humans treat each other. Even cows, horses and goats figure how to live in the same pasture. The carnage in our cities is worse than a jungle. Humans seem to be defying evolutionary paths. Our species quite primitive, prey on each other due to anger and revenge. Even sharks have a better code of behavior.
The 20th century brought us Gandhi and Hitler. We have MLK and Milosevic. All of them acted with a sense of justice. Which path will we follow to justice? John Borders proclaims in a loud voice to stop the violence. …. “We need to work with a mother’s love….This is not a natural war we must fight, but a spiritual war.” Too many of our country’s laws reflect punishment and killing: the death penalty, flunking students, 3 strikes and you’re out. That’s not forgiving, it’s derogatory.
Personally I usually live in denial of such violence. I don’t walk down the street listening for gunshots like those on Woolsen St. on Sept 28th 2010. I work to stop greed, bloated military budget and family violence. I’m not a Mohandas Gandhi or a Mother Teresa to stop such senseless murders.
Stopping violence is not the same as working for peace. On October 6th I prayed for Amani and those murdered at the Morningstar Church in Mattapan. I prayed as the rain swiped across tall glass windows. I cried. My tears brought me out of shock: the pain hit hard, harder than denial. But a community needs to feel before it can heal.
Oh dear hearts, Let’s try to be smarter than the lemmings who run themselves off cliffs. Let’s reject homicide, suicide and infanticide as a species. The rain is appropriate. Our prayers are appropriate. The heavens are harbingers of change, but only humans are make it manifest. Our hands are made of love. Put our prayers into action. Let’s put our two hands forward and surround this problem. Otherwise the rain will keep washing our tears.
Every day I run by the Charles River in Boston. Every week I pick up my knitting. I love both the speed of running and the patience of knitting. My endorphins ramp up with running. Actually some call my carriage jogging, but jog is a sodden word. It does nothing for my endorphins. As I ran today yellow leaves tumbled down from the locust trees– little scraps of plants not afraid to knock into me. The trees put on French polish before dropping their fingernails. I kept running and running, delirious.
Running is straight forward. When running I cut through confusion. Sometimes I run out of fear, running from any weakness that could kill me. I do run to save my life. But I’m not running from imminent danger, just the creeping fear of a future paralysis. I breathe deep and my body tingles.
I love both running and knitting. Gratitude infuses all of us past 50 who can still run. Thanks for stamina and the blood rising up my cheeks. But knitting is more complicated. There’s design, forethought and grace to knitting. How is it that grace pertains to knitting? I can run gracefully. Twoneedles being tossed back and forth is mechanical. Is Spirit involved in knitting? It seems to be the opposite spiritual practice than running.
Knitting helps me weather Quaker thunderstorms. My spiritual nettle is tied up in the yarn. I don’t knit during open worship. Holy croutons, not that. But I do knit during worship when business is at hand. Some time ago I was knitting a hat with 4 strands of thread. The strands got tumbled about. The clerk explained that Trustees had just hired an ex-convict to clean our buildings for 15 hours a week. There was anger. “We invited a low-life person to work at our church? We weren’t warned about this.” There was a stormy silence. I felt my hands automatically threading the yarn back and forth: knit 2, purl 2. I tried to find God’s voice in the friction.
“This is totally unheard of. Who is this ex-con? Can we (the entire meeting) see his criminal record?” Some Quaker parents weren’t sure whether they wanted their children in the same room with a criminal. I felt prejudice and odious racism lurking in these questions. How in God’s name could my sister Quakers be racist? I breathed and knitted. I exhaled and changed needles. How do Quakers let off steam when we are glued to our chairs, our bodies perfectly still? I knitted another ½ a row. Needle front, needle back. There is rhythm, God isn’t static. Forward and backward.
“Shouldn’t we hear from the man we hired whether he’s guilty?”
“But that’s illegal.”
“But he’s willing to talk about how his life turned around. He’s made amends.”
“He’s leader in the AA group.”
“He’s been to jail twice.” Your job Minga, is to keep praying,.
Suddenly I had come to the end of my blue thread and I realized that I had a huge tangle in the middle of my skein. I looked at my orderly rows hanging from the needle: 4 blue knit; 2 white knit: 4 blue , 1 white.
Crap. I couldn’t pull any more blue yarn off the skein. A maze of blue string blocked the next row. The meeting was tense. Tight, staccato voices spoke back and forth to each other.
“We should let him in– he’s changed his sinful ways.”
Others said, “We can’t be so naive – he’s been an addict and a killer.”
“We should trust in that of God in him.”
“We should be careful in this case.”
A trustee said, “But our lawyers say it’s illegal to ask an employee to speak openly and jeopardize himself. We must get a waiver.” There was a pause. From somewhere came the smell of fermented apples. Were people just confused between privacy of this man and whether to hire him? What do Friends do when they’re stuck? I turned to my neighborhood, Sarah and handed her the mangled blue skein.
Hold this, I gestured to her. She smiled and opened her eyes in mock fear at the yarn. I started winding the loose end into a ball. I threaded the ball in and out. Sarah held open pockets in the tangle for me to weave onto the ball. My fingers were working overtime.
The clerk suggested a way for this ex-con to speak to the entire meeting. Many heads nodded. Someone apologized if they were sounding paranoid. At this point that assembly of God’s people was in unison after wrestling with the injustice of incarceration, with our doubts that Spirit is in charge, with our fear of violence, with recovering addictions, with our slowness to forgive being ruled by fear. Was it fear? Or was it caution?
The rows of stitches on my needle were larger than my tangle of threads. The meeting closed and Sarah handed me back the loose yarn. My tiny ball had started the size of a grape and was now was the size of a peach. The length of the hat had only grown by a few rows, but the tangle of knots had shrunk.
Quakers get caught in the world’s evils and we don’t know instantly how to excavate ourselves. I get my yarn in terrible knots, feeling stuck. But Sarah held my tangle and progress was made. The design is still in place for my knitted hat. The yarn kept my hands busy so I didn’t feel paralyzed in the midst of a Quaker convoluted fight.
I’d rather be running, but I can’t run from human entanglements. How do you stay grounded during a heated argument?
God knows the path ahead is murky, please keep me knitting and running.
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