Tamara Jorell

Writing life and the neighborhood

Writing life and the neighborhood

 

Enough

One man killed at a traffic stop in Falcon Heights. Five men slain in Dallas. One toddler murdered in north Minneapolis.

And even more losses lit up the map. The nation’s sadness wasn’t monochromatic; it came in every color. An abundance of voices on the news, in social media, and on the streets poured into the confusion, deafening the country. The heaviness—the division—roiled my stomach. What could be done?

What could I do?

I stumbled on some internet articles addressing the racial issues of the day. The writers said the situation was complex, and since I was white and privileged, I would do well to contemplate social constructs and my place within them, because my deference toward people of other races was too short to span the divide.

Discouragement draped itself around my shoulders.

Later in the week, Husband told me about an article he had read.

“When the Bible says in the future it will be ‘nation against nation’, the original language for ‘nation’ is ‘ethnos’. It’s where we get the word ‘ethnic’. So, it really means ‘ethnicity against ethnicity’. Just like we see happening right now.”

“That’s the reality.” I chewed my lip.

“Yeah.”

“But we’re still called to love and live at peace with everyone, no matter what.”

Husband nodded, his eyes filling.

On Sunday, Pastor addressed the fissures in our nation.

“When the tribe of Benjamin was suffering, the other tribes gathered and asked, ‘What shall we do?’ That has to be our question too. We need to abandon ourselves and rise up when one of our tribes is hurting.”

I jotted notes. His points brimmed with grace, truth. A humble word in turbulent times.

But how did all this translate to our lives? What exactly could we do? And would it be enough?

 

The next day on my return home from errands, I pulled the car into our driveway and hopped out. But before Flicka and I could shut the vehicle's doors, two of the neighbors’ pit bulls bumbled about our feet, wagging their whole bodies. One of them jumped into the front seat.

“She’s so cute I can’t stand it,” Flicka said, shooing the animal out of our car.

The dogs’ tails whipped my shins; exuberance wrapped in fur. “Let’s get these two back into their yard.” I pointed to the place across the alley.

“I’m dying here, they’re so adorable,” my girl said. “Just a hypothetical: If the owners don’t want them, could we keep these guys?”

I smiled, shaking my head. “I wish.”

We wrangled the wiggly ones back onto their property. I assessed the fence, but couldn’t find their exit point.

A woman emerged from the back door of the house. “They’re escape artists, those two. Sorry about that.”

I laughed. “They’re sweet.”

“Too sweet.” The woman chuckled. “I’m scared they’ll get themselves stolen. They’d go with anyone.”  

We exchanged names, and I learned Tiana had moved in ten months earlier.

“I can’t believe I haven’t met you before this,” I said.

“I work all the time.” Tiana stepped from her yard into the alley, clasping the gate behind her. Her dogs were two blurs as they chased each other around the yard. We chatted about the neighborhood. She voiced her concerns about the alley kids—the ones who had frequented our driveway to play basketball. She had reached out to them one day and beaded five-year-old Laya’s hair. The little girl had soaked in the attention as if her life depended on it.

“She didn’t know her birthday,” the woman said, her eyebrows coming together.

I sighed. “I feel for those kids.”

Then Tiana mentioned her own children—almost all grown up. “My boys are good, quiet—not messed up in drugs or gangs—but they better watch themselves, I tell them, because they look the part.”

“I’m sorry it’s like that.”

As we visited, I thought again about the discouraging articles I had read earlier in the week. In theory, maybe they were true. But the writers had left out the flesh and blood part—the heartbeat of connection and the pulsing warmth of interactions with neighbors just across the alley.  

And right then I knew that by ourselves, we didn’t have the power to make a sweeping difference for our own or any other race. But we could do the simple, small things in front of us—herding pit bulls or beading hair—and with love, it was enough to get started.

 

*Miss an installment of the blog? Or want to catch the story from the beginning? Visit http://www.tamarajorell.com/blog-entries-by-date

*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.

© 2014 Tamara Jorell. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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