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On The Other Side of 'The Heavy'

The world feels like a heavier place these days. 

I wonder if it's my own circumstance (just a me problem?) - the way I constantly look at the world for my son, and through my son. Or if it's the constant - what feels like, never-ending - negative news (and crazy people!) that is always there. The always-updated feed with 'happenings' leaves you wondering if these crazy things happened in the past - maybe we just didn't know? Or, if it truly has become as heavy, and as out of control as it feels. 

Lately, I've been thinking about the story of Ralph Yarl. I've been thinking about everything that worries me about the story in regard to our society's climate. I've agonized about how easy Ralph could be my son if we continue to move in this direction as people. I also feel on the inside (with severe empathy and experience) for the weight carried by today's children of color. I know the weight of attempting to disarm yourself. I still do. Yet, I wonder how much heavier that skin must feel in today's space. 

I also think about Kaylin Gillis. A young woman was shot and killed in her friend's car in upstate New York. Kaylin was a passenger in a car that was making a U-turn in a driveway after getting lost on their voyage to another friend's home. The owner of the home, upon seeing the vehicle, immediately went outside and fired a gun at the vehicle. 

Yes, as absurd as it sounds. Did these things happen in the past?! No way this happened, right? Right?!

I think about Kaylin, a white young woman in rural upstate New York. I've never been white. I've never been a woman. But I surmise, Kaylin in all of the comfort that she could imagine existed around her, and void of historical sociopolitical structures and concerns in homogenous, rural New York, she never imagine or felt a threat to her existence. 

She was with her friends. Going to another friend's house. All they did was make a U-turn?!

A friggin' u-turn!

Yet, just like that, her family lost her. 

Again, I think about my son. It feels like we've lost the essence of "it takes a village" when it comes to our kids - when it comes to just about anything. I'm stuck on the isolationism and divisiveness strangling our connection and trust in one another. 

Earlier this week, I had a moment that brought me to this post. That brought Ralph Yarl and Kaylin Gillis to the front of my pondering and to the discussion point of my soul. 

A young black boy went jogging by my house. 

While I live in a suburb that is still relatively diverse, for a suburb, it's still...well, the suburbs.

As he came jogging down the street, head held high, arms close to his body in stride, no headphones, phone stationed in his left arm, and in the most generic outfit imaginable - white t-shirt and non-marking shorts - I found myself locked on him. 

I thought of the perceived safety Ralph Yarl assumed. I thought of the innocence Kaylin expected. Quick snippets of Ahmaud Arbery flooded my consciousness. 

I stood there. I stopped sweeping. My world honed in on this kid. Then I noticed he was locked in on me - from about 200 feet (Possibly, long before I became aware of his presence). He didn't adjust. He didn't shy away from the attention. Innocent in appearance, yet, all-too understanding and likely educated on these moments. 

He noticeably slowed down his pace as he ran in front of my house. 

"Good afternoon, sir" he said directly, breaking the ice of our stare-down. 

"Hey, what's up?! How's it going?", I responded. I tried to be enthusiastic and firm. I was on the other side now. For the first time in my life, I realized I could provide assurance to the heaviness I was always seeking as a young person. Especially, in spaces where I felt my presence could be seen as well, uneasy. 

"Good! Just getting my usual run in." His words were friendly. Yet, direct. Chosen specifically. Again, clearly coached in this area. 

"Awesome! Have a good one - stay safe!" I emphasized the words at the end. I meant it. I wanted it for him. I wanted it in hope for our neighborhood, and the people within it. I wanted it for myself, that this neighborhood was not like those that come across my social media feeds. For everyone says - this never happens here! Until it does. Or, is recorded. 

Then he struck again. 

"I'll see you around." Sealed with a head nod. 

I stood there with my broom clenched in my hands as I watched him vanish from the sight of my front yard. Gone in just a few seconds. Yet, it established all that kid needed for his next time out. 

One less resident to worry about. Possibly an ally in myself. 

I've been there. I know what that small interaction did for that kid. His route will pass my house in some way going forward. No matter what the mileage for the workout. 

And for me, when it came to Ralp Yarl and Kaylin Gillis - for a few moments - it gave me the small assurance that humanity is still present. It's the simple offering of it that was denied to Ralph and Kaylin. 

That young black boy showed me the opposite side of my presence. And the power it now possesses. As a person of color. And simply, as s human being. A good person, provides a space, for another person. 

How hard is that?! 

With the ability to provide that power through my presence, the type that I once thought was needed to disarm myself, I want those frequent moments of eased heaviness for my son. 

Give him every single interaction of "have a good one - stay safe!". 

I want him to run freely - even make a wrong u-turn or two - and most importantly, to move from moment to moment in life, without that heavy at all. 

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