Thursday, November 10, 2016

Reflections on Black and White, Light and Darkness

Friday night was the visitation for Yore Jieng, a 14-year old boy from my church who was shot and killed while riding in a car near his home.  The cries and laments of his family were haunting.  People were screaming, crying, and fainting.  Many of his family left before the visitation began because they were too overwhelmed.  My heart hurt for the pain they were going through.  

Then the grieving public started to arrive.  Hundreds of them, from all across the community.  Urban and suburban…rich and poor…white, black, and brown…citizen and refugee.  Two white police officers who work downtown on both sides of the river were present.  Pastor asked them to be around, just in case.  This is what you do when a child is murdered and his killer is still at-large and hundreds of sad and angry people are gathered around the boy’s dead body.  

The police officers stood outside and quickly became defacto greeters for the mourners.  They knew many of the kids (all of them black) by name.  They gave hugs.  They expressed condolences to the kids who were sad…and the kids returned with condolences of their own, for the two police officers who were killed earlier in the week.  They talked together…laughed together…cried together…grieved together.  And the police officers weren’t the only ones with this kind of interaction.  Teachers, pastors, mentors, volunteers, and community organizers all had similar exchanges with the kids.  The beauty in these moments was almost more than I could bear.  

On Sunday morning in worship we lit candles for All Saints Sunday.  Yore’s parents, Lory and Andrew, lit candles for their slain son.  As Lory turned the corner and started walking back to her seat, she spotted a white woman a few people behind her who was sobbing.  Lory stopped, waited for other people to walk past, and embraced the crying woman.  These two mothers held each other as they walked back to their pew.  The other woman’s name is Kim.  Her daughter suffered multiple broken bones in a car crash earlier in the year.  Kim was lighting a candle for her daughter’s boyfriend who died in the crash.  

I was astonished to learn after the service that Kim and Lory had never met.  They didn’t know each other’s stories.  But Lory felt the anguish of another person and reached out in love and concern.  That Kim is white and Lory is black is significant…but their shared humanity is what makes this story transcendent.

If you woke up Wednesday morning and felt that there was suddenly more evil and darkness in the world…you may have been right.  (I've never seen more swastikas in my news feed than I have in the past 24 hours.)  But it doesn’t mean any of the goodness and light went away.  The people who you love and who love you are, likely, still here.  The church is still here.  The Lord Jesus is still here.  The people who came together in my faith community over the past two weeks are still here.  Their stories didn’t go away.  And there will be more of these stories that blossom in the weeks and months ahead.  

When I’m outside in the sun, I have to turn up the brightness on my phone.  When it’s dark, I turn the brightness down.  Light shines brighter in darkness.  The emergence of darkness allows a chance for light to shine all the brighter.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not—and will not—overcome it.