A World Broken: Thoughts on Ferguson

IMG_1074“Mom, why is the world broken?”


Tuesday morning at 6:40 AM my son arrived downstairs; and in between rubbing the peace of a night’s sleep from his ten-year-old eyes and setting the table, he asked me this question, asked me about Ferguson and what had happened overnight.


I have had to explain any parent’s share of thorny topics to him already in his first decade on the planet, but this was a question seemingly impossible to answer—not just for him, but, really, at all.


Where do I begin?  Where do any of us begin?


We are so broken, the answers as convoluted and tangled as they are elusive.


All we know for sure is a young boy, a young unarmed boy, is dead.


And no response beginning with the word “but” matters.


But he did this.  But he did that.


It couldn’t matter less.


A boy is dead.


A boy who no matter how many unfortunate photos surface was still just a boy.


No matter how many unfortunate things he did was still just a boy.


A boy filled with unrealized potential.


A boy our world should be bolstering, not knocking down.


Not killing.


I think of all of my most unfortunate transgressions and am grateful images of those moments are not plastered on the internet for the world to see and to judge. I think of all the unfortunate things I have done and am grateful that in the midst of my most difficult hours, I was not shot and killed. I think of who I was then and who I am now, that there were people who saw my worth and lifted me up.  I am grateful my existence was never marginalized, my voice never silenced.


Michael Brown belongs–belonged–not just to his parents or his community but to all of us.


He was your son and mine–to believe in, to protect.


Why is the world broken?


Because we have forgotten that he was ours.


And we need to remember.



“An invisible red thread connects those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break.”  – Ancient Chinese Proverb

It was already dark at 5 PM fourteen years ago today, the whipping winds providing the perfect backdrop to the tumult that took up residence in me several hours prior when the call came in.

“There is a little boy.  Two years old . . .”

We had trained to be foster parents, anointed, and ostensibly ready for this call but really not.

From two to three in just a few hours.

I made arrangements, left work, and proceeded to pace the length of our house, sit and think, and then pace some more.

What did I know about a two-year-old boy?  What did I know about this two-year-old boy?

What could I offer him in the time he would be with us?  Would he like us?  Would he feel safe with us?  Would he trust us?

This story couldn’t be scripted, I concluded.  Instead it would unfold.

011-011And right on time a knock at the door.  Enter a child unlike any I had ever seen, a child who made his way in first, in front of the adult charged with bringing him to us.  She had his belongings.  He walked down the short hall and placed his drink on the dining room table, the same hallway and dining room table I had paced up and down and past a hundred times in the last three hours.  He walked with such purpose.  I was mesmerized.

The social worker left, and my husband came home.  Then we were mesmerized–following him, watching him, wondering who this boy was, who he would be.

We talked to him and waited for him to talk to us.

Soon he did–and with conviction, intelligence, and clarity.

So we listened.

And then we did what people with two-year-old children do . . . we made dinner, we read stories, we tucked him in.

On that night fourteen years ago we did not know what the future held–for him or for us.  The best we could do was make him a promise as he slept–unspoken but palpable nonetheless: We would be here–today, tomorrow, and always, unconditionally.

Fourteen years ago on this night at this moment all was quiet but would never be the same.

We would never be the same.

And there was nothing then to do but look at each other–and then at him–with gratitude.