I was asked to write a blog post this week for the Riverside Innovation Hub that would introduce a series we are calling “Front Porch Stories.” This series will highlight stories from neighborhoods near and far where congregations are creating, cultivating or entering into front porch places where neighbors meet neighbors. Places where curiosity can be nurtured, stories can be shared, and simple connections can spark new relationships. Places where new life and new hope might have some room to take root.
However, I’m struggling to have imagination for new life and hope today. Instead, death and hopelessness are crowding my heart and my mind, just as they are saturating our communities near and far – our schools, our corner grocery stores, our city blocks…
Today, as I write, marks the 2 year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder in the neighborhood of Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis, MN. His sacred life – like countless black and brown bodies before and after him – senselessly taken by uninhibited police violence.
Today, as I write, dozens of parents in the neighborhood of Uvalde, Texas have woken up to the first morning of the rest of their lives without their children. Young, beautiful, holy lives whose bodies and futures were destroyed with bullets and brutality.
Today, as I write, families and loved ones in Buffalo, New York prepare to bury their beloved elders, family members and friends. Ten cherished human beings who were targeted, terrorized and massacred by a young man embodying the violent evil lies of white supremacy ideology.
Today, my heart fears that the front porches are too few and that their power to overcome the constant waves of violence and grief are insufficient.
We talk about sowing seeds of love, connection, justice, mercy, and hope. Yet the seeds of violence, evil, hatred and fear have been nurtured far too well for far too long in our places. The two young 18 year old men and their evil ambitious destruction, reflect an ugly truth about the state of our humanity today. The systems tasked with stewarding our public safety reveal the deep roots of a harmful belief that some lives don’t matter. The seeds we have sown are breeding unimaginable violence and yet it’s completely imaginable because of how regularly it visits us.
What we have let flourish is fear.
What we have allowed to take up space is violence.
What we have neglected to weed out is hatred.
What we are left with, is death.
If you are a human and you are allowing yourself to be human today – by which I mean allowing yourself to be exposed to the heavy grief of today, and so, so many days like this one – then you are not ok today. Even if you think you’re ok, you’re not. Your well-being is deeply woven into the well-being of your neighbors, and theirs woven into yours. Today – and everyday – there is no such thing as other people’s children. And today, hatred and fear, through the vessel of metal bullets, has shredded the sacred life of our children. OUR children. It has blown holes through the fabric of our shared humanity. And it will require OUR collective showing up to lament this evil breach. To eventually, slowly and painfully stitch together what can be mended. To honor and remember how our communities – in Minneapolis, in Uvalde, in Buffalo – have been altered and will never be the same.
Today, I lament. Theologian Walter Brueggemann says that lament is the act of giving voice to the truth that things are not as they should be and must change. Friends…things are not as they should be. Things must change. Today, I invite you to join me, to join your neighbors near and far, and lament. Cry. Wail. Weep. Mourn. Cuss. Collapse.
If you do find yourself in proximity to a front porch – a space for neighbors to come alongside one another, a space for neighbors to risk being changed by one another – go there. Lament together. If you are like me and do not have any seeds of hope left to sow because, by all outward appearances, it looks hopeless, then let your tears of lament fall and saturate the earth. Pray the Spirit will know how to use them to nourish our common ground.
And then remember, that after today, is tomorrow. And then the next day and the next. Our seeds of love, of mercy, of justice, of connection must find their way to this holy, wet ground. We must return to do the work to nurture places of mutual flourishing and life. Even when all we feel is death, we must show up – as we can – to tend to the breach of our shared humanity. The Holy Spirit will be there. She is there already. She will not abandon the weary. She is working to make a way.
I know, in my bones, that our response must draw us far outside of our own personal comfort and into the neighborhoods that moan and cry out for a better way. A new way. Or maybe an old way. A forgotten way. A way of connectedness, mutuality and companionship where we embrace the truth that my well being is wrapped up in my neighbors and theirs in mine. Even on our darkest days, we can embody the truth of our generous connection to one another, as we align together in our lament and our grief.
To quote the wise Ted Lasso, “I promise you there is one thing worse out there than being sad, and that’s being alone and being sad. Ain’t no one here alone.” Find a friend. Find a neighbor. Find a front porch and sit together. Live into the truth that we need each other. We need each other today and tomorrow and in all the days to come.