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I’ve heard the speeches and read the words my whole life.  “Be the change that you wish to see in the world” -Mahatma Gandhi.  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”  -Edmund Burke.  “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything” George Bernard Shaw.  I have always been quite proud to know the words, very self-righteous in my knowledge that I can do that: I can bring change.  Not today, though.  Today I am busy.  Maybe tomorrow will be the day…  No, that’s no good.  My son has a doctor’s appointment.  Well, next week then.  Next week for sure.

How many of you have been that person?  How many of you ARE that person?  I am worse than that person.  I am someone that trolls my neighborhood social media platforms, outraged and involved.  Well, involved in a way that doesn’t require any more than sitting behind my computer or mobile device and chiming in on whatever topic is being posted about that day.  Positions open on boards and committees, the call goes out for others to do their civic duty and be more active in progress and resolution, and I just sit there.  Sure, I read.  I “hmmm” and “hah” and talk to my husband about how now is the perfect time to be involved.  I tell him “I could do that!”  But I don’t.  I never get involved.  What am I so afraid of?  Failure?  That’s a damned sight better than never attempting anything at all.  What’s stopping me?  What’s stopping you?

My neighborhood began its week in shock and mourning.  After spending Sunday with neighbors and friends, Kelcey “Skeet” Thornton was shot and killed on the street next to his home.  No witnesses have come forward and very few details have emerged.  He was a friendly, accepting man who I, unfortunately, never had the pleasure of meeting.  His death has barely been a blurb in the news here in Atlanta, just a quick “there was a shooting today…” insert with less than a handful of sentences.  This slaying comes on the heels of escalating crime and violence in our neighborhoods and nearby communities.  It’s been less than two years since David McReynolds was murdered in a front yard on his way home from the corner store that he walked to so frequently to play his “lucky numbers.”  Not even a year has passed since Patrick Cotrona and his roommate were held at gun point in an attempted robbery resulting in his death.  Without provocation, Mr. Cotrona’s life was ended.  Outrage, disbelief…  ANGER.  The public outcry has raged as residents, family members and friends grieve.  After a while, it quiets down and, eventually, it’s put out of mind altogether.

If there was ever a time to get involved, to rally support and make a change, THIS IS IT.  A man is robbed then shot in the head walking home from a Braves game.  A woman gets out of her car in her own driveway and has a gun put to her head and her purse taken from her.  Burglars are boldly invading homes fully knowing the residents are there.  The threat is so real that social media is inundated with weekly- and sometimes daily- inquiries “Was that fireworks or gunshots?”  How did this become the norm?  When did this become okay?  How long can good people simply stand by and allow our safety and the safety of those around us to be compromised again and again?  How do we fight this crime wave?  Where are the police and government officials?  Where is the outcry from local media?  To hell with outcry, where is the covereage?  This man mattered.  This murder is unacceptable.  We cannot stand for it.

A few weeks ago, my friend passed away.  Ms. Joan, as I’ve always called her, and it feels like a betrayal to call her friend.  How can a word so freely used possibly do justice to the love that I feel for her and her husband?  I spent 12 wonderful years growing up next door to these wonderful people and I have been struggling every day since her death to put into words the significant role she and her husband have played in my life.  Mr. Henry and Ms. Joan were my first love story.  Forget Cinderella and Snow White- they are just tales.  Mr. Henry and Ms. Joan?  They are the love of legends.  Though together most of a lifetime, they started out scandalous.  One was dating someone else!  But when you know, you know.  And they knew.  Forget pontificating sonnets and all of that junk.  They listened to each other.  They shared.  They loved- and not just each other.  They had so much love, they gave it freely and often to so many people.  I was so lucky to be the recipient.  That love meant always having a place to come home.  After my grandfather died and my family moved away, they were my roots.  They ARE my roots.

That love they gave to me shaped so much of who I am now.  Ms. Joan always took time to listen to me chatter away incessantly.  I can remember being warm in her kitchen while she cooked and I talked about everything and anything that worries a young child.  I didn’t know it then, but she was teaching me patience, compassion, and showing me that what I feel matters.  Mr. Henry played sports with me.  He’d coordinate the neighborhood children into impromptu games of baseball, basketball, whatever got us moving.  He taught me to make an effort with people and great things come from that cooperation.  He taught me to lead.  He was an engineer- electrical, if I remember correctly- and his enthusiasm inspired a love of math and science that I still have today.  I don’t remember any Halloween of years gone by, but I remember that every October 31st I would be in their foyer having my picture taken in costume.  They taught me to document memories, because time passes but pictures help to bring them back to yesterday.

From this amazing couple, I learned to correspond.  Don’t just sign a card, but fill it with love.  I have every card they ever gave me- birthday, Christmas, wedding, condolence, graduation.  Their messages always filled me up, particularly when grieving, which is another lesson they taught by demonstration.  In times of victory and sorry, turn to the Bible.  You will always find a verse that will speak to you.  I feel remiss that it’s been a month and I haven’t reached out to Ms. Joan’s family to express my sadness and regret.  It’s no excuse, but I couldn’t.  I couldn’t find the words, the sentiment, the way to put into words just what a crushing loss this is, the proper tribute to such a beautiful, passionate, kind and wonderful woman.  So, this morning, I finally try to do just that.  Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” kept coming to my mind.  Ms. Joan most certainly was all of these things, but that isn’t why this excerpt ebbed and flowed in my memory.  When my grandmother died years and years ago, they offered this reading to me for comfort along with the words “Good people must die, but death cannot kill their name,” and the reminder that as long as we live, so will our loved ones live on in our hearts.  I offer that to you, Uncle Henry.  You will never know the love my family has for you and your family.  The impact you and Ms. Joan had on our lives every day.  Thank you doesn’t seem adequate, but it needs to be said that I am so grateful to have had your family in my life.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky) recently made comments inferring that the advancement of science coupled with a woman having the legal right to make reproductive decisions yields eugenics.  Really?  This is the kind of representation that we the people have in government?  This is what OUR voice is saying?  This is so off-base and such fabulous fodder for panicking ignorant masses that it’s hard to know where to begin.  Eugenics is not about science or medicine or abortion- it is a social disease.  People find X, Y, and/or Z traits unfavorable and opt to rout them out. Just because it’s borrowing pages from the works of Darwin and Mendel does not make it a case of science accelerating survival of the fittest.  The Wright Brothers were integral to flight but that does not make 9/11 their fault.  That was the destructive thought process of a radical few.  Same applies here.

Eugenics has historically reared its ugly head in society without any great scientific advancement to predicate it.  Ever hear of the Spartans or the Nazis?  What great scientific discovery prompted those programs?  Let me share a few fun facts on the timeline of American history, since I have a hard time just blindly believing Sen. Paul’s suppositions are valid.  The Eugenics Record Office was established in Long Island (in case you failed geography, that’s in the US) in 1910.  Watson and Crick, along with many other brilliant scientists around the world, were unraveling “the secret of life”- specifically the properties and structure of DNA- with great success in the 1960s.  Roe v. Wade recognized and set precedent to a woman’s right to choose in 1973.  By the 1970s, all eugenics projects in the US had been abandoned.  Is there a lot of other factors playing in to these dates and events?  Sure.  But, looking at the dates and the factors that Sen. Rand Paul is calling in to question…  Let me see if I have it.  Eugenics in the US?  Check.  Great big giant leaps in the advancement of science?  Check.  Legalized abortions?  Check.  HALTING of eugenics in accordance to said time frame?  Check.  Wait.  What?  To quote the movie Idiocracy “But the opposite you said.”

There is a huge debate going on in my neighborhood about racial profiling.  Some feel it is a knee jerk reaction in response to the bulk of our currently publicized crimes being perpetrated by a segment of the society that share similar gender/ethnicity/age/etc.  Others feel it is indicative of underlying prejudices when caution is adhered as a result of a stranger’s appearance.

I find that I am uncomfortable with this conversation.  It’s not the merit of the debate that makes me squirm, rather I have to wonder where I fit in.  We have a constant stream of realtors/delivery people/landscapers/salesman/religious and political canvassers/etc through our neighborhood.  Our community is involved and diverse, not to mention communicative and proactive.  After an exhausting summer of multiple homes being robbed and cars being rummaged through by the half dozen, we are all frustrated and on high alert.  With the majority of the “Be On the Lookout” warnings issued in our neighborhood for young African-American males, a heated situation is being fueled in our community.  The question must now be asked: Is profiling racism?

“Racism” feels more like fodder for news media than something for introspect.  Just read news stories and the comments sections from any news outlet on any day to find ignorance and passion on the subject, but mostly a great deal of vitriol towards any and all races and sexes.  Growing up in South Carolina and now residing in Georgia, I am acutely, even painfully, aware that racism isn’t a boogeyman.  It’s real and alive and applied daily, and ethnicity is exempt.  Prejudice doesn’t have a color or size- anyone can wear it, anyone can be mistreated because of it.  In theory, profiling is the application of prejudice to people that fit a certain shape or appearance in the name of…what?  Justice?  Defense?

If I don’t open my door to an African American male that I have never seen before that has no identification (read- professional uniform, name tag, company card, etc), does that make me a racist?  If you answered yes, would matters change if I told you that a BOLO went out in the neighborhood just an hour earlier saying that a young man of this profile had just forced himself into another home and robbed it?  Is it still racist or am I now just being safe?  Where’s the line?   Being home alone a lot, I have to decide what feels safe.  I have had groups of teens with no lawn equipment come by asking for money to mow my lawn when it is raining (and run off the as the asked).  I have left my neighbor’s home to find a white male I’ve never seen trying my front door knob (I didn’t answer the door, so he was just checking, he said).  I’ve had the biggest, scariest guy I’ve ever seen come up to me on my porch with a dog leash hooked to a collar, screaming and frantic because his dog slipped loose (the dog was about a block over and he nearly wept with relief).  And I’ve had an African American teen that looked homeless and desperate come running from nowhere and grab my young son, catching him just in time to pull him back from running in front of a speeding car (his parents had left, and he and his older sister were doing the best they could, but life is hard and there wasn’t a lot of food.  Once I calmed down, I had to practically force him to have lunch with us and the gratitude I saw in his eyes still haunts me and breaks my heart).  I feel that I have to make a judgment call based on instinct and to apply just one standard of description to that would be putting myself in harm’s way.  To be truthful, though…  If a green Martian I don’t know pounds on my door demanding entry and a green Martian just attempted a home invasion a few streets over, that door is staying closed and I am calling 911.  I don’t care if it is biased against those that are green or are Martians.

     I am really, truly, and madly in love with my life.  The people, the possibilities, the love.  Sure, there’s hurt and frustration, but without it I wouldn’t be able to recognize the beauty.  After all, can you truly enjoy success and accomplishment without first experiencing disappointment?  It’s the struggles, the setbacks, the heartbreaks that make my life so very wonderful. 

     In the past year and a half, we’ve experienced miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy that came close to destroying me.  But this morning, still fuzzy with sleep, my four year old crawled into bed with me, wrapped his arms around my neck, kissed my cheek and said “I love you, my mommy.”  Those words, that moment…  Endearing and wonderful alone, but after all of the hurt and disappointment in the reproductive department so recently…  That moment was everything.  Joyful, strengthening, and a reminder that, while my plans were busy falling apart, this small innocent child was loving me everyday without judgment.  While I was hating my body for its failure to conceive and carry a fetus, he saw his mommy.  When I was loathing the lumpy, squishy belly that was stretching out my clothes instead of the cute little baby bump that was no longer to be, he saw perfection .  I wish I could have seen this sooner.  I wish I could have made it past the bitterness and devastation long enough to see myself through my son’s eyes.  It has made all of the difference.

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