My 8-year-old son just walked into my room crying. That was heartbreaking enough, but what The Boy said next wrenched my insides.
He said he can’t stop thinking about about Mike Brown and everything that has happened and continues to happen.
Now, we didn’t sugarcoat anything concerning Mike Brown. How could we? We saw footage of this young man’s body lying on the ground for four hours. How could we? We watched TV and saw places that we knew go up in flames and people that we know speak, protest, and even get arrested. How could we sugarcoat anything when my husband works a couple of blocks from the epicenter of the action in Ferguson and his place of employment had to enact special security precautions? Businesses that we frequented were no longer accessible due to media and police using them as hubs. As we drove down the street we saw boards on windows and burned out buildings. We couldn’t ignore that. And you can’t sugarcoat a movement when in the neighborhood next to yours a different young man gets shot and protests shut down main thoroughfares. How could we deny the impact of Mike Brown on our community when their school and my work closed due to civil unrest? No, sugarcoating events relating to Mike Brown didn’t happen in our household, but discernment did.
We didn’t allow the children to hear and see everything that was available for their consumption. And we discussed what they did hear and see. We’re not without our biases, but we tried to present to our children a fair and generous view of everything that happened. We wanted them to know the world is a safe place and people are trustworthy; we didn’t want to see them jaded beyond their years. But we also wanted them to know the realities of our world. In short, we did our best.
And our best included prayer. Every night since August, we have prayed for Mike Brown’s family, St. Louis, social unrest, police officers, race relations, and everything else we could think of. The Boy has been on the leading edge of these prayers. He remembers to pray every night without fail.
So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that he came into my room crying. The situation has clearly been on his mind.
I asked him what specifically is on his mind, and he couldn’t answer. He is, after all, only eight. I swallowed hard and asked him if he felt like what had happened to Mike Brown could happen to him. Thankfully he’s not worried about that. He seems, however, overwhelmed with sadness that any of this had to happen and that we are still feeling the repercussions.
I told him that even though what happened was awful that sometimes when awful things like that happen, it helps society realize that we need to make some positive changes. And I tried to explain that we are in the midst of figuring out what positive changes need to happen and how to make them. I told him that he doesn’t have to worry about anything because God is in control of everything and that God loves him very much. I also told him that his father and I love him and will always do what is in his best interest. And we prayed – not just for the situation, but for him.
Then he asked how to stop everything from replaying in his mind.
Oh, I wish I knew. I suffer from that problem myself.
But what I told him was to replace the sad thoughts with happy ones, because you’ll never stop thinking about something by trying to not think about it. Then I reminded him that he wanted to write a letter to Marcus Mariota congratulating him on winning the Heisman trophy. TB had already drawn the picture to accompany the letter, but in the bustle of Christmas he hadn’t gotten around to penning the letter yet.
So right now I pray he’s finishing up his letter to one of his idols and thinking about what new football gear he would like. Did I mention that when he came in he had on a full football uniform, complete with pads, and streaks of eyeblack under his eyes? The only thing missing was the helmet.
The eyeblack was more streaked when he left, from his tears and the ensuing tissues, but his smile had returned.