During the morning church service, the beautiful little girl sits on my leg and moves her crayon confidently from one point on the page in front of her to the next. As she slides the brown-colored wax stick from number to number, the outline of a picture appears, clearly depicting a shepherd with his sheep.
It hasn’t always been like this.
A year or two ago the little tyke, one of my four favorite grandchildren, would have asked, in her version of a whisper (meaning: loudly enough for all nearby to hear clearly), “What do I do here, Grandpa?”
Grandpa would have explained that she needed to start on the number 1 and draw a line to the number 2. A little squiggly line that wandered off to the side and then back again would have been drawn tentatively. At that point, the crayon would be lifted from the page and the question repeated, possibly even a little more loudly.
Eventually the picture would be visible, although not nearly as neat as today’s, nor with as straight of lines from number to number. Clearly, she has learned to connect the dots much more skillfully in the intervening time.
The services are notably quieter too, since she has learned to whisper a little better, as well.
I smile as I think about the beautiful little girl and how she is growing. And learning. But, as I think, my mind wanders. Those dots remind me of something else. They make me think a little about other types of connections.
They’re not so different from connecting the dots, are they?
It has been a year ago. It hardly seems possible, so little has changed.
My young friend, Grace, is studying photography at the local university. She takes photos of what she sees. It is what photographers do. One of her photographs stopped me in my tracks. Dead. In my tracks.
The photograph will likely need some explanation. Then again, perhaps not much.
The news was full of events in Ferguson, Missouri for months. Then, riots and looting broke out as the racial anger boiled over and the filters that, in ordinary circumstances, would prevent such action were lost or discarded.
Windows were broken. Fires were set. Property was destroyed. Guns were fired.
Many words have been spoken and written about the situation since then–words which were and are hurtful and angry. My own emotions have surged as I have seen the images and have heard the angry words from many different perspectives.
I have stood in despair and wondered why those people would be so angry and destructive in their actions. I have listened in horror and wondered why those other people would be so angry and hateful in their words.
My young friend went to Ferguson. Herself. Standing in the place where the horrible violence occurred, she took a picture of her feet.
That’s right. Her feet.
On the ground. In Ferguson. In the middle of the bricks and the ashes.
I glanced at the photo and shrugged mentally. Big deal.
Then it hit me.
Those same feet, the ones in the blue sneakers, had walked into my music store one afternoon the week before.
Funny. Her feet–the ones in the blue sneakers, on the ground in Ferguson– they stood on the ground in front of me just days earlier.
It’s the same ground.
Suddenly, the miles and the man-made divisions seem insignificant as I begin to grasp the reality. These are not someone else’s problems, occurring in a different world than the one in which I live and move.
These are my people. What happens to them, happens to me.
In my mind the arguments pile atop each other; the evidence of connections between me and those people is overwhelming. (Romans 10:12)
I want to convince with logic. Perhaps, if I can overwhelm the reader with scientific proof of our shared ancestry, of DNA, of common history–perhaps then we’ll embrace each other. Perhaps then the violence, the slurs, the hatred can stop.
It won’t happen.
The words I would say have all been said, the arguments made again and again. The human heart is turned to evil and deceit, and only God can change it. It has always been so.
But today, for me, sitting on the knee of the one true Artist, I see the connection. Like my granddaughter, the skill at recognizing those points of connection may increase with maturity and practice.
I want it to be true.
Maybe we can help each other.
We are connected, after all.
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
(Martin Luther King Jr ~ American pastor/civil rights leader ~ 1929-1968)
Be joyful. Grow to maturity. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you.
(2 Corinthians 13:11 ~ NLT)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2015. All Rights Reserved.