By Sherrie Robins
When my son and I went on vacation to Baltimore last summer, little did we know what was in store.
I feel so inadequate to even broach this subject. I’m an outsider. I don’t have the answers. There are others who might know how to ‘fix’ this. Not me. But it looks like this problem isn’t going anywhere fast. After the Baltimore riots, Memorial Day Weekend brought the most violent statistics since 1999. Twenty six were injured, nine killed in shootings that one weekend… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/26/baltimore-shootings-memorial-day_n_7441994.html
Let me start by saying that my son and I went on our first vacation together, alone, as Mother and Son to Baltimore, last summer. We had a ‘most excellent adventure’.
We spent the majority of our time at the Inner Harbor and were engaged by the restoration, history and energy it generated. We loved the National Aquarium, the outdoor concert by the water, the cool Barnes and Nobel and several historical pockets. There was more than enough to explore and that we did! We both agreed it was a great place to visit and thought how we might like to do so again someday.
We even covered it in our https://2chicks2go.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/baltimore-vacation-bi-centennial-celebration-of-the-national-anthem/ blog.
That was last summer.
A few of weeks ago, the crap hit the fan. I was so sad to think of the suffering and turmoil that had taken place. And the violence.
Where does one begin to address the prevalent issues here, including violence, prejudice, bias and blame.
I began to think of the people.
But thinking of that city, with all its lights and buildings, blocks and traffic, I had more intimate and personal recollections of individuals we had met. Thoughts of the cab driver who was so happy she’d just come back from Carribana in Toronto, and visiting her family there, came to mind. I thought of her because Toronto has also been my past home and because she was proud of her work and did a fine job describing some of the sights as we rode along.
…Thoughts of the energetic and jovial worker who was up early in the morning to ensure the guests’ breakfast were ready for them when they came downstairs for coffee…
Special memories of the young woman who’d been our server at one of the Harbor’s chain restaurants; we chatted for a bit and found out that she was about to take off for New York City to engage in her dream as a dancer. We shared in her joy and chatted for some time, during the business off-hour. It sounded as though the opportunity hadn’t come to her easily, but she had faithfully worked toward her goal and was about to live out her hopes. I even got her contact information, which I mislaid. Wish I hadn’t. I want her to do well. I want her to soar…
…Remembrances of the young Police officers, zipping around the Harbor on Segways, and their dignified counterparts on proud horseback.
Then there was the commuter train ride to and from the Airport.
Since I paint, I study faces;
looking at the laugh lines and the crooks and crannies, sometimes perceiving pain and persistence, sorrow and substance. Looking here I saw burdens, steel etched wrinkles in indelible skin.
These were the hard workers;
the people who sometimes worked two and three jobs to put food on their table and support a family. Back breaking work. Oh, I’m sure there were some hopeful students, and those who enjoyed their jobs, but my overall impression was that these were people who were longing for happier times.
There was an awkward moment, when the train lurched then stopped, unmoving, for a good chunk of time; long enough to make me nervous we could miss our plane. I asked a security guard who was riding along, if this was normal, and were we okay? He assured us that all was well, and happily gave us destination information which came in extremely handy; another man to be remembered fondly.
As a Canadian girl, born on the western prairies, I hadn’t gone to school with much diversity and my naivety has gotten me in trouble more than once. Maybe I don’t know as much as I think I do? Perhaps some of these hard-working Baltimoreans might look at my son and me, with our give-away luggage and think were simply spoiled tourists.
But what they couldn’t see was my heart, because it was breaking.
They couldn’t see the prayers that were sent Heavenward on their behalf. Because we may not be walking in another’s shoes, doesn’t mean we don’t fathom heartache. Alas, isn’t that the great uniter? The thing that human kind has most in common? Suffering? Urban or rural, young or old, woman or man, black or white.
We all carry a load.
No one could see that my son, sitting next to me; a tall, handsome young man, tawny from the sun and the sunshine of my life , was maimed. They couldn’t see he didn’t have a whole arm, but one that was part bionic and part cadaver. No one knew that a sister/daughter, waited for us at home and had just lost a small part of her body too, due to that stupid cancer, as we could in no way know what woes those nearby had waiting for them around the bend.
I was thinking about how unfair life can be, how it doles out injustice willy-nilly, and people pay the price.
I was thinking about how brave they were to continue walking this path, day after day and why did they have it so hard?
I was praying.
God, give them strength. God, give them hope. Lord, lift them up. Please.
Then we went home.
Last month I heard the news.
When it came to us that Baltimore was in trouble, that fires were raging, I was heart-broken, once again, thinking of our trip and the people, individuals who made up the city we had come to love.
My heart sent up another prayer.
A prayer that people would remember “the playground’, a time when it didn’t matter if we were different, when differences were merely intriguing. As a child in Montreal, one of my favorite things was meeting kids who spoke French. I loved reaching across the divide to play together, to find the commonalities. It was a kind of victory. A smile, a laugh, the odd recognizable word.
But the playground wasn’t always safe either.
I prayed the school yard bullies would be recognized for who and what they are.
…the kids who were fighting would just stop.
…that the teacher would come along and we’d all be safe again.
So, please, forgive us all when we don’t fully understand. When we judge, label, isolate.
But be assured of this, the Lord understands your broken heart, Baltimore. He has shed tears for you and wants your healing.
I pray for better days ahead. For resolution and restoration. For the beauty that is in you to shine as bright as a beacon so you may welcome travelers, such as us again.That forgiveness and compassion will find a place at the table, so life will be better and hope will lead you to a stronger tomorrow.
I remember you fondly, Baltimore and all the individuals who make you, you.