This morning started off with a text from a relative telling me that a college student in the Chicago neighborhood where my son lived for two years was mugged, shot and killed last night at 8:00 pm. Icy fear chilled my veins, and my insides clenched at this news, thinking of this student’s family and friends confronting such a terrible loss. Tears leaked from my eyes as I shared it with Joe and acknowledged aloud a truth that came to me so plainly. Beneath my genuine sorrow for these people I don’t know lurks a desperate plea arising deep in my heart: “Please let this never be me. May my precious ones always be safe.” A tragedy that strikes close to home because of the location and demographic (my son still lives in Chicago) means that I can’t buffer against the sadness. Suddenly I understood the events of Ferguson and New York (and all the other places) at a more visceral level. Despite the considerable distress they engender for me, the outward differences compared to my personal situation allow me to maintain a protected emotional stance. What if those barriers came down?
Back in August I responded to an invitation on Facebook from Molly Barker, founder of Girls on the Run, to participate in a new initiative she felt called to launch to address the political polarization that has led to gridlock in Congress. She calls it the Red Boot Coalition because of the unexpected personal empowerment she found through the wearing of red cowboy boots received as a gift from her daughter. Molly spent the month of August traveling around the country talking to people in organized groups, like the one some friends and I held here in Cincinnati, and to individuals encountered along the way, from hotel workers to truck drivers. At the end of that journey, she concluded that politics is just one manifestation of a cultural “us versus them” perspective that leads to fear, anger, and violence. The addition of technology, social media and round the clock news creates further distancing. We don’t know each other, and we don’t really communicate. In response, Molly has created an 11-step process for dialogue. She envisions regular “Red Boot” meetings where people come together to share their experiences in relation to a particular step.
Recently she has been sharing one Red Boot Step each day on Facebook with a request for responses; today’s step concerns stillness: I have come to see that despite feeling stressed by the demands of life, taking time every day to be in stillness provides a “peace” that is essential to my well-being. I am more present, available and willing to see the mystery of serendipity and coincidence. I am loved. For me, stillness is necessary to feel genuine emotion rather than avoid it. Today I chose to write in my journal and then compose this post, rather than bury myself in a novel for the morning.
Molly is coming to Cincinnati on January 15 to kick off the Red Boot Coalition in Cincinnati, and I am really looking forward to it.