Kids have a way of putting things in perspective for some of us. On our way to Sunday’s impromptu vigil at Mack Lloyd Park in Winthrop, to sit in solidarity with protestors across the nation mourning the violent loss of black lives, I made an off-hand remark to my kids about how I couldn’t believe that we live in a reality where we have to wear masks to go out in public. As she often does, my 13-year-old put me in my place, noting that she can’t believe we live in a reality where men and women of color are disproportionately the victims of police brutality.
Organized by Showing Up for Racial Justice, the vigil was peaceful and respectful, with attendees, almost all in masks, generally observing social distancing measures. After the main program, we broke into smaller groups and sat in widely spaced circles to discuss reactions to the Black Lives Matter activism, potential local responses, and action steps.
I sat with the youth action group, largely because it seemed easiest to just stick with my kids. (Normally they would pretend not to know me, but in one of the more unexpected and favorable aspects of the pandemic, they seem not to mind me as much as they might have in times when they had more options for social engagement.)
Sitting in a circle of mostly teens, I was struck by the incongruity of the scene. These beautiful young faces, all masked. These passionate young voices, all muffled. These plans and dreams for the future, all deferred. These teens are on the verge of being launched into a world that they didn’t create and which is filled with such overwhelming discord. It would be reassuring if our community could be a steadfast source of stability for our valley kids, but even we are growing increasingly divided.
We sat there on the lush grass in silence, the sun warm on our foreheads above our masks, the spring breeze whispering in the pines. It was Winthrop at its most beautiful: summer scents in the air, the sound of the river rushing in the background, community members gathered in solidarity. We took five long, slow breaths. We inhaled deeply, feeling grateful to be able to do so. And then we quietly left that calm and peaceful park with a small spark of hope — the collective conviction that we can, and must, do better.