It is 3:03 A.M. Several minutes ago, I was jolted awake by a dream which I remember in vivid detail. The dream involves two young black men, Krishaun Branch and Robert Henderson. Their difficult, but successful, struggles to leave the violent community of Englewood on the south side of Chicago to get college degrees was documented in All The Difference, a POV production on PBS, which I watched recently. Since graduating from college, both young men have gone on to service careers. Robert works for City Year in Columbia, S.C. Krishaun returned to Englewood to be a mentor at Urban Prep, the all black, all male academy which saved him (and Robert) from the streets. Soon after his return home, Krishaun’s 17-year old brother Devonte died in a drive-by shooting – a victim of the gang violence that Krishaun had left to escape. Krishaun blames himself for leaving him to the streets to go to college.
I dreamed that Krishaun and Robert were involved in a Chopped Champion TV show (Chopped is a food competition program on the Food Network; I am a big fan!). Each young man was challenged to cook the perfect hamburg on separate balconies in our apartment complex. The timed competition was frantically coming to a close when Krishaun noticed that a member of his family who was watching the competition on the pavement below had fainted. He immediately vaulted from the balcony and began CPR. He saved the man’s life.
I have been sleepless for a long time, puzzling about this dream. I finally realized that in my dream I had created a way for Krishaun to find redemption. He couldn’t save his brother, but he could save this family member.
Where’s the Redemption?
Wouldn’t it be great if that’s the way life worked? I began to muse about redemption in a world of hate and terror. Where’s the redemption for Keith Lamont Scott (killed by police in Charlotte, S.C.) or for Terence Crutcher (killed by police in Tulsa, OK)? And for their families. And for the police officers?
Where’s the redemption for the five people killed in a shopping mall rampage in Burlington, WA? Or for the nine wounded in the manic shooting spree in Houston by a Porsche-driving lawyer.
Where’s the redemption for the bigotry and lies that fly so easily from the mouth and Twitter-ready fingers of Donald Trump – and from his counterparts on the political right who are rapidly gaining influence in many countries in the European Union by blaming migrants for the world’s problems?
Where’s the redemption for the nearly 2 million people in Aleppo, Syria, a key battle ground in Syria’s five-year civil war. Already desperate for food, residents now have no safe water and are at risk from waterborne disease. Targeted air strikes by Russian and Syrian planes last week irreparably damaged the pumping station the eastern part of the city which is held by rebel forces; in retaliation a pumping station that pumps water to the western part of the city (controlled by Syrian government forces) was deliberately switched off. UNICEF spokesman Kieran Dwyer said that water is being used as a weapon of war by all sides and that the lack of running water could be “catastrophic” for the city.
A few days ago I was telling my husband (a black man who lost a 22-year old son to the streets of Chicago) about the air strikes in Aleppo. Tears streamed down my face. He told me that he had stopped listening to the news because if he didn’t he would never stop crying. I respect his decision and will try not to share any more news stories with him. But I feel a responsibility to be aware of the hatred and pain in the world. Perhaps that is my attempt to redeem the suffering of millions of people around the world who are victims of forces that are beyond my understanding – and seemingly beyond my ability to help.
Karen,Thank you for bringing attention these heartbreaking events. It seems so overwhelming. I keep asking God to intervene–and then I remember that God is asking us to intervene and do whatever we can–not only pray but act. We can pressure decision makers to enact and enforce stricter gun laws. We can support international aid agencies in Syria. We can welcome refugees from war torn countries. And we can vote for a president who is experienced, informed, steady and prepared to lead with wisdom, respect and humility.
Carol, Thank you for your calls to action!
Here are some suggestions for “internal” actions. Read, view, or listen to news world events and the presidential campaign. Respond to people who are promoting irrational actions or racist comments by saying, “I strongly disagree.” Be prepared to answer if someone says “Why do you disagree?” Work at understanding “hidden bias” or “white privilege” in your own thinking. Make every effort to think through the political claims and falsehoods that are touted everyday. Don’t take anything for granted.