God is here. In the middle of the traumatic events of the last several days, in the midst of the anger and grief we are experiencing as a country right now, the Spirit of God moves among us in blossoming uprisings of love, unity, and understanding that surprise and open hearts.
You may not have heard about it, but a couple of days into the national shock wave around the last two killings of black men by police, someone shot four times at the Muslim Community Center here in Bryan-College Station. There was broken glass and there were bullet holes in the building. No one was injured, thank God. Our community was shocked. We couldn’t believe something like that could happen here.
A couple of days later, a human ring of love, support and protection surrounded the Muslim community during their Friday prayers. I could not be there as I was at work, but my sister-in-law, Jamie, was there. She texted me, “I went in and sat with the women. There are people all around the building! It’s beautiful! You would love it!”
Later I watched clips others had posted about this coming together, of people surrounding the building in a supportive “stand-in.” I read the exclamations of thanks and relief on social media from members of the Mosque, about the outpouring of love and support they had received from our community here. I was proud of my town. It showed me that God is here, working love in the midst of hatred.
“Are you coming this way?” I asked.
He looked taken aback. “I’m your neighbor. I am just home to let my dog out.”
“Oh. Sorry.” I shook his hand. “I’m Shawn.”
“Have a good day.”
“Yeah, you too.”
I wanted to hug him and tell him I appreciated all that he did, and that I was sorry about the killings of his fellow officers in Dallas. But I wasn’t sure I should make things more awkward. So I just shook hands and smiled. I will look for opportunities to talk to him and get to know him in the future.
I thought about the significance of what Officer Andrew had said to me; “I’m your neighbor.” The police are our neighbors, to be loved, as Jesus taught us; loved as we love ourselves.
My son-in-law, Shawn, is black. I have thought about him a lot this week amidst the reports of two black men who were fathers, killed by police. I told Shawn his life mattered to me very much, and that I would do whatever I could to make sure he could be at least as safe and as free as I am.
We talked about times I have had to pick him up from work at night because he kept getting stopped and questioned by police walking home. They asked where he was going, where he was coming from, what he was doing there. It was starting to scare him and worry me. So I gave him rides home. His mother worries about him, too, that he will be pulled over and something will happen, especially now that the kids are thinking about moving to a bigger city.
I kissed the face of my latte skinned baby grand daughter, Arelani, as we talked, and wondered what we were going to teach her about these issues. What progress will we have made by the time she is old enough to talk about it? Maybe we will be able to tell her that love worked wonders, that love wrought justice, and that God was there accompanying us, encouraging us with miracles of peace along the way.
“I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists.” – Mahatma Gandhi
I heard our police chief talking on a local radio show about how much the community was supporting the police after what happened in Dallas. He said people were bringing cookies to the police station, flowers, cards. He said the best support for our local police was simple: to treat them like humans. “A smile, a nod, makes all the difference.” I can do that, and I will.
Our town supported its Muslim Community Center. We are supporting our police. How can we reach out to the black community and support them, address their problems, work with them, listen to them?
As it turns out, the first people to do that here, as far as I know, were the police. They took the first step by holding a roundtable discussion at Lincoln Center in College Station, a Boy’s and Girl’s club. It went very well.
Here is my new friend, Chris Field’s account of how it went:
Last night the College Station police department came to the Lincoln Center (local boys and girls club) for an open forum/roundtable discussion with the black community. Nearly 100 people attended the event. It was healthy and productive dialogue. For more than 3 hours the Police Chief himself graciously and kindly answered dozens of questions from the local community. His team explained use of force policies, how they monitor if a specific officer is using force too often, how they review each use of force, what they are looking for during a traffic stop, etc.
The highlight of the night for me was when a young black man, very early on in the conversation, recounted a story to the Chief about once having been unfairly pulled over and mistreated by the officer who stopped him. The chief looked him straight in the eye and said, “I am very sorry that happened to you. That’s not okay. Please call me directly, and this goes for all of you, if anything like that ever happens again.” In that moment, I could tell how meaningful it was to my black friends to feel seen and heard. Especially by this man who held a lot of power.
Not one single person yelled last night. No one even raised their voice. Multiple attendees thanked the police for all they do. Numerous people went out of their way to say they believed the vast majority of the police are good people with good hearts. The police said they understand there is much dark history to overcome and many instances where people have been treated wrongly. They also mentioned wanting to find more positive ways to be involved in the local black community, especially so that young children weren’t scared of the police. All agreed that dialogue like this should take place regularly.
No specific problems were solved last night. But it was a great start. I applaud the CSPD for having almost a dozen officers there and for handling everything with grace and tact. I’m also grateful for the respect shown by the black community in their genuine desire to understand and move forward in more healthy ways.
These are the sort of moments that bring us together and help us humanize one another. Many hugs and handshakes were shared after the event, and I am hopeful it is the start of some real and deep relationships that will cut across race and socio-economic differences.
Again, I was proud of my town.
The following social media post, also by Chris Field, made me happy. It’s easy to see God’s hand on this guy by his loving heart, his humility, his willingness to understand and to be present to others:
I continue to be overwhelmed by all that has transpired in our country over the last week. So much I want to say. So much I want to do. So many different things I am grieving.
But today I will listen. I will shut up and listen. I will walk the streets of my black neighbors and listen. I will visit the local police station and listen. I will attend a police/black community roundtable discussion and listen.
This is the first step in the business of peacemaking. An intentional, purposed, calculated, and willful desire to get out of our homes and go out to seek peace. More steps and action must follow, but this is the start.
More to come. Kingdom come. We have to do better. ~ Chris Field
Thank you, Chris, for expressing it better than I could. It’s an excellent plan of action.
- “Bring’em all in, into my heart.” Great song.