What can I do when my heart is breaking?

I am a "white" woman living in a Connecticut town where another "black" teen has been shot and killed by a cop. How can I be with my women of color friends? How can I be with myself?

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A few months ago I took this photo of a young girl crying, and asked myself Who is my sister? That photo marked the one-year anniversary of the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

This past week I cried with my women colleagues at the Hispanic Clinic in New Haven. We mourned the killing by police of Mubarak Solemane, a teen of color, loved by family and friends, his name eerily similar to the Iranian general whom my government killed by drone last month.

In this Black History Month, I am torn by many questions –

How is it that I was born of a “white” Catholic family at a time when my country was not being bombed, have an ordinary-sounding last name, and have the luxury to get on a plane next week to reunite with my three sisters who are still alive? (That’s Jeanie, Rosie, me, and Mary, as young ones in Louisville, KY.)

How is it that my friend Mira, born exactly two weeks after me, of a Jewish family in Poland, was tossed over a fence by her mother to become a “hidden child” to escape the Gestapo before her parents were sent to concentration camps?

How is it that 19-year-old Mubi, who suffered from a mental disorder but had successfully completed high school, was shot seven times by a police officer as he, Mubi, sat in his car?

How is it that my country does not have enough money for health, education, and housing, yet spends 63% of our taxes on “national defense” – manufacturing drones, bombs, submarines, and sending our women and men to “defend” countries that may not have asked for their presence?

How is it that the USA continues to be unaware of its own history, past and present, of genocide, racism, and violence? – that my women of color colleagues daily carry the deep fear that their sons may be targeted, shot, killed?

Mubi, Millie, Mira. Senators, soldiers, police. Each of us arrives newborn into this world with loving hope from our families. In Baltimore, Beijing, Iran, New Haven, Nigeria, Seoul, Stockholm, Yemen – everywhere – children hope to grow to adulthood in a world that is healthy, safe.

Reverend Martin Luther King said in his Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence:

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death…

We can no longer afford to worship the go of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation…

We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now…

This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind.

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might with morality, and strength without sight.

I send this post with grief and confusion yet with hope that each of us will wake up and do whatever is in our power to heal our broken world. And I offer you my little Oasis in the Overwhelm Sanity Tip:

Take five minutes today to ponder:

  1. What am I grateful for about my place of birth, my family, my essence?
  2. What is one specific action I will take today to open my eyes to someone “different” from me?
  3. What is one specific action I will take to deepen my respect for a) my own life, b) the life of someone else?

Written by Millie Grenough — Feel free to comment / share

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