Saw one boy land a pretty brutal flurry of punches and in turn have some food and taunting thrown at him by a group of his peers. Saw him run off and take out some serious pent up anger (desperation?) kicking a trash bin. Tried to talk to him and saw tears overtake him. Saw his mom come and try to speak to him and saw him run away. Saw parents and kids alike huddling around and keeping to themselves.
I don't usually meddle, and probably to my shame am actually fairly aloof when I drop my boys off every morning. But this morning it all happened so fast. I was drawn in against my will. I saw it, saw no adults nearer than I, began to walk over, yelled the loudest and most commanding "hey!" I could muster, and got over there and broke it up. I got one kid's name but could not cajole anyone into coming to the office with me, or even really talking to me.
I told them what I saw and thought at the school office, and they seemed to think they knew all the complexities of the story before I even told them. Maybe they do. I tried to represent empathetically all sides of the event. In the end I had to leave it to them and to trust them to handle it on their turf in their way.
All I have left of the situation now are my questions.
Questions about getting involved, and how deep that can take you, and where do you stop?
Questions about imposing one's values outside of one's own home. When and when not?
Questions about children, and how everything they do (good or bad) is a mirror on their adult society. By that I don't mean just their parents (or lack thereof). I mean all of us.
Questions about darkness; and the chaos and confusion that smothers it like leeches. I wanted to speak to this punch-throwing boy with empathy and care, but there was no way he wanted anything to do with me. Whatever he was pissed off about would only be trivialized by the interference of some stranger, no matter how well meaning. My unpractised little light could not come out of its bushel and even hope to penetrate this cloud. Not even close.
Questions about just letting stuff like this go. And how that often seems like our only option, even once we become somehow involved---let alone when we are only partially aware of the existence of such events and the circumstances that must lie behind them.
Questions about how we're all, all of us, pretty much paralyzed in the face of this kind of darkness. It seems our whole society is built on the mechanisms to stay comfortably aloof, so we can hold on to our illusions. We do not have a real hope in the face of evil. We keep it away with our mechanisms of fear and tolerance and we reason against it with our false mirage of human progress. But whether we are directly involved or not, all of us are implicated in it.
Questions about our church communities, and about how that paralysis, and not some kind of holiness, is probably a better explanation for our set-apart-ness most of the time. What with our private schools and safe places and home schools and small groups. Are we just afraid and hiding? Are we just making the most of life in our paralysis? We say we are people of faith, hope and love, but it is mostly in the abstract. Most days we are people of fear, guilt, and grateful safety.
I should not sound so accusing here. I'm talking about me. There are plenty of Christians I know who are right there in the thick of it, salt of the earth, loving the unloved and seemingly unlovable, hoping for the hopeless, holding faith where there are no shafts of light.
The sad thing is that these folks are sometimes the apparently un-theological sort, the kind that we make light of with our stereotypes of the church, and our theological elitism, and all its talk of "bad words" and so on. Don't get me wrong. Truth-talking is as important in the face of darkness's falsehood as anything else. But it is at times like this when I remember that it is these people, the people with real faith, hope, and love in the face of and not in oblivion to darkness---these are the real heroes.
I'm not accusing anyone here. Unless you are like me. Then with me you stand accused. I realize today that I am a far cry from being a man thoroughly ingrained with faith, hope and love. I am paralyzed, and retreat to my comfortable place, and analyze the situation from here. And this is all I can do. Maybe it is even the best I can do.
But somewhere nearby a boy is crying alone.
I can't even fathom Granville Street. Let alone Haiti.