Hooper Schultz put out an APB on Charleston Grit's Facebook site a few weeks ago asking the Grit writers for their reflection on the year after the Emanuel church shootings. After just reading Stephanie Hunt's beautiful and comprehensive article in the Charleston Magazine, (here) I concluded that my little contribution would have been like adding soggy biscuits to a Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast. So—I tapped away happily on the new essay, childhood summers and games.
The brakes were put on that story this past Sunday when I spied a baggie while pulling out of my yard.
What was previously HOA in suburbia for us, (the acronym for Home Owners Association) is now HOA, (Home Of Animals) in rural America—where the deer, armadillo and good ole boys play. Toss the can is one of the favorite games I believe.
Recycling of aluminum beer cans and plastic drink bottles aren’t top priority. The favorite ditch brands seem to be Bud and Bud Light. And—since there are no fast food establishments within 20 miles, a plastic baggie can be considered mail.
The flyer, with some info redacted to keep this group from getting any publicity.
I could have left that baggie there until I got back. But my anal left brain wouldn't allow it. The baggie was filled with about 1/4 cup of white rice and a folded piece of paper.
I was fully expecting a flyer from one of the local churches inviting us to a tent revival or vacation bible school.
My mouth dropped! I turned off the ignition (I think) and ran into the house. I gave the baggie to Don with no explanation, his mouth dropped too. I'm rattling off questions. Poor Don is like. "No Renae, I don't think the WHITE rice has any significance." It's possible I read one too many Nancy Drew mystery books when I was younger.
The poster was from another three letter acronym. A group that I won't name but can describe with two words, white sheets.
I was still dumbfounded as I got back into the truck and headed to my sister's. I drove really slow, looking into the neighbor's yards for the familiar bag, nothing. And then—I saw it, lying in the yard of an African American church.
It is almost 12 o'clock on Sunday, the parking lot is full.
My eyes filled with tears. Someone is going to come out of this church and find this hate. I thought of stopping, running into the yard for the baggie. Rational Renae crept in, those doors are going to be opening soon, my luck? I'll be standing in their churchyard with that baggie in hand and there may have been more.
For some reason an event that happened months ago came flooding back to me. A little church, a young boy and a rare bitter, cold and windy January morning.
I headed out to town very early that morning. Ahead of me I saw a young African American boy in a silky pin striped suit walking down the road with a Bible. I knew the closest church on this road was a mile away so I pulled up alongside him and asked if I could give him a ride. He hesitated for a brief second, but then climbed into the warm car. He sat the Bible on his knees and thanked me. Right before we got to his church he asked me to stop so he could get out. I did, he smiled and said "Thank you", we parted ways.
I couldn't figure out why he wanted me to stop before the church. I know now; survival, instinct, the concerned plea’s of mother's, father's and grandparents to not get into the car with strangers or (if the baggie I just picked up out of the yard is indicative) white folk.
BUT—when that boy opened my car door that freezing cold Carolina morning to get in, hope and trust won out. It must now as well.
We have to nourish those virtues for our next generation, we have to believe it ourselves. Teach kindness and trust, not bigotry or ethnic segregation.
It's taken a week for me to digest this. For a day or two I glared at every car that seemed to be slowing down near our house. As much as I wanted to ball this piece of paper up and throw it away I didn't. I kept it open on my desk all week.
I decided I HAD to write about this, for two reasons, neither as glamorous as anyone would imagine. First, a purge. A dog eats grass to rid itself of something unclean it has digested, an emetic of sorts. Second, healing after the purge.
Blue skies, puffy cloud background, beautiful family and text that included “patriotism” and “Christianity.” Snakes are in the garden of Eden my friends, and their ways are wily.
Christianity: Matthew 22:36-40 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Patriotism: The second paragraph in the Declaration of Independence states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
I choose not to form an allegiance to politics, but point to democracy. To re-direct from religion to it's source, our creator.”
I believe of all of the terrible diseases on this planet, the one that cripples and does more damage than any other is hate. Yet, it is the only disease that has a cure. Love.
I've seen this love, witnessed it and lived it. If we are left with anything a year later from the Emanuel shootings, let it be this. The words of the family members to the murderer. "We welcomed you, we pray for you, we forgive you."
This, my friends, is practice of faith that is strong that hate. Luke 23:34, Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”
We grieved and joined hands in solidarity last year on the bridge to show our hearts are open to the diversity of our communities. But—the bridge we gathered on is a destination. It goes two ways, either back or forward over troubled waters.
I wondered, “What can I do as one person that can make a difference?”
If I see or hear an injustice I can call it out into the light. I can examine myself as well. Is there anything left in me that is prejudice? I’m sure there is, hopefully there will always be someone who convicts me of those perceived rights that I don't think wrong other's.
To conclude, that baggie was gone from the church yard when I came home from my trip that morning. I was sad, I wished I hadn't been such a coward, I wished I had just stopped and picked it up before anyone saw it.
And then the next day they changed their church sign message.
“We welcome you, with Love.”
Hate cannot disturb my peace within.