Strangers

“Thhhwhack” went the car parked behind me, as Aida and I walked down the street in Anacostia (SE Washington, D.C.). We turned around quickly to see a young boy and two girls running away and turning a corner. This was the same boy who moments before had called out, “Can I get yo’ girl’s numbah?” several times as we had walked past him. He couldn’t have been more than 9 or 10, but there was a certain boldness in him that was eerie. It wasn’t original; another young man, maybe 9 or 10 years older than him, had called out the same thing just a minute before this boy got the idea and ran with it. I suppose he wasn’t satisfied with our lack of response, so when we had gotten a good distance away, he had thrown a rock at us, just missing us and hitting the car.

It’s not hard to think of some of the reasons behind the rock being thrown at us: two white strangers walking through a neighborhood in Southeast D.C. tend to stand out. The kid probably was annoyed that we hadn’t shown any reaction to his jeering catcall, and being young and cocky, decided to show us he wasn’t afraid. That’s just my guess. But it doesn’t make it any less unnerving and sad. We were on a prayer walk, so obviously the next thing we did was to pray for the kids we had passed. Yet, I’m not sure that I did the right thing in this situation. I’m not sure Jesus would have just kept walking.

Part of learning to pray is learning to let God answer our prayers through us. I let fear keep me from talking to this kid. When he had called out the first time, I wonder that I shouldn’t have stopped and asked him his name, what school he goes to, etc. There was a dividing wall still up-the dividing wall of race. When he threw a rock at me, fear kept me from turning around and telling the kid that Jesus loved him and had better things in store for him than throwing rocks at strangers. Walking away wasn’t wrong, per se, but I think I missed out on what it really means to be nonviolent like Jesus. It’s harder than just ignoring problems or hatred or violence. It often means walking right into the face of it and absorbing more. There’s a point at which ignorning violence is contributing to it; at some point, we have to step in the way of violence to show that the cost of violence is our humanity. That is why we need to stop executions, why we need peacemakers to go to war-torn countries.

I’ve got a lot of learning to do about peacemaking.

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