Behind Closed Doors

It was overcast and rainy today.  So we stayed in like you do.  With even a couple of times venturing outside, things still got a little wacky today.  Folks were grumpy.  I might have overreacted to spilled water.  The dog barked way too much at the cat outside and anytime someone made a sudden move.  Folks couldn’t get along about what movie to watch or game to play and they couldn’t work together to get chores done.  Or respond to requests for action the first three times they were asked.  They We all got cranky.

Not our best day.

I blame it on being stir crazy.

That’s a thing, right?  When I worked in childcare, and we had days or weeks of inclement weather, we talked about the children (and others *ahem*) being stir crazy.  One summer when the temperature reached so high it was too hot for us to play outside, I remember Mama sending us outside in the dark after our baths to run around in our nightgowns just to burn some energy off.  Now I know that was as much for her as it was for us.

Last night I wrote about a man who was so thankful that because of his job he could afford to turn on the cable, so his children could stay indoors and be safe.  He lives in a neighborhood where it isn’t safe for them to be outside.  I cannot imagine what that life is like, y’all.

Today, in the middle of all of our crankiness, I sat with that for a bit.  If these children are staying inside as much as possible to protect them from violence and being susceptible to drugs and gang activity and worse, other bad things can happen.  Things that aren’t as immediately harmful, but the long-term effects could be devastating.

These children are more susceptible to obesity because they can’t get out and run around.  Sitting inside is necessary for survival, but their little feet need to run free as do their spirits.   When I think about the joy it brings me watching Cooter’s hair flying behind him as he rides his bike up and down the street, I grieve for these parents and children who cannot experience that.   For the ones in school, I cannot imagine that the limited amount of time spent in PE could completely satisfy their need to run around.  Limited physical activity combined with limited budget for purchasing healthy foods can contribute to even more health problems.  Many of these neighborhoods are food deserts as well, with few choices for shopping for foods other than snacks or highly processed foods.

My front porch is a “laboratory.”  Many of the children on our street come and pick leaves and grass and flower blossoms and concoct all sorts of things.  Later they might be running around with pool noodles, using them for goodness only knows, and running around between yards, laughing and chasing and teasing and hiding, and doing all the wonderful things their imaginations come up with.  (They also have disagreements, which they have to resolve among themselves for the most part, and that is really good for them too.)

This little neighborhood is where my children are learning about community.  About sharing each other’s ups and downs and sitting with each other when they are hurting…..physically and emotionally.  I am not saying that these children who are inside all day aren’t learning about community, but I worry about what they are learning about it.  I hope there is a community center or somewhere they can get out and learn that people really do care and that there is joy to be found in caring about others and sharing the journey.

Because, if today is any indication, what happens behind closed doors can escalate fast.  I cannot imagine what it is like for these parents who are working multiple jobs, fighting to pay bills and stay afloat, worrying over keeping their littles–and their teens–safe and in school.  I can only imagine the pressure they must feel.  Perhaps they are fighting monsters of their own.  And then they are stuck in this place with few choices, where their community is not safe.

Without community to support them or options to explore, things can turn for the worse.  People who feel that they have no options or anyone to turn to–I get how frustrating and devastating that can be.  All of that has to go somewhere.  All too often it goes to substance abuse or abuse to others.

I’m not saying these families are doomed.  What I am saying is that I am starting to realize how far-reaching the impact of growing up in unsafe neighborhoods can be.  It can affect everything from nutrition and health to social skills to self-esteem, focus, and the ability to dream about the future.  Imaginations can suffer, as can relationships.  Parents who are struggling and have no support can succumb to the darkness.  The youth without anywhere to go might look for any way out–even the one they know is not the wisest choice.  Many might find themselves in situations outside the law–our Youth Detention Centers and prisons are filled with people who made poor choices in desperate situations.  My own friend grew up in a home without many choices, which contributed to his addiction problems as he tried to numb the pain.  He has been in and out of jails and rehab facilities.  All because at one point as a young person, he felt he was out of choices.

I am broken because tonight, as I wrote this, I was waiting to hear about the appeals that were in the U.S. Supreme Court to save the life of Joshua Bishop by giving him a stay of execution.  He was abused and neglected as a child, and when he was barely a legal adult, he and an older man murdered a friend with whom they’d been drinking and doing drugs.  The older man was sentenced to life in prison.  This young man was given the death sentence.  He is reformed and has been a good role model for others while in prison.  The families of the victims have asked that his sentence be commuted.  Seven out of the twelve jurors who sentenced him to death have asked for the sentence to be changed to life in prison.  Yet the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has said no, as did the Georgia Supreme Court.  And then, so did SCOTUS.  And so, tonight at 9:27 p.m. he was executed.

It’s all so broken.  I want to scream and yell–WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?!

I am left to wonder, as I ask for Grace and Mercy, what part his community or lack thereof played in all of this?

Tonight I’m holding all of this in my heart, and I ask what we–because it will take all of us as a COMMUNITY–can do to change things for these families, for these neighborhoods?  What are we missing out on because one of these children–and there are so many of them–didn’t reach his or her full potential because of the broken community they were raised in?   Because their community was unable to circle close around and provide guidance and safety and encouragement and rules and advice and resources and options…..

all the things I was raised with but took for granted every single day.

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Y’all we need to grab these children and families up and wrap them in a big hug and then ask them how we can help them change their world as best as we are able in whatever way looks best for them. Because here’s the deal–their world is our world and our world is theirs.  There’s no us and them–it’s all we and us.  In the words of Fannie Lou Hamer:  “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.”

I’ll meet y’all outside.  Let’s make it safe for all, so no one has to be afraid behind a locked door.  And miss out when the good things come knocking at that door.

Love to all.

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You can read more about Joshua Bishop’s case here.

This video is a powerful one, a message from a local Superior Court judge to young people.  YES.  I am thankful for her words and the fact that she cares.

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/macon/watch-bibb-county-judge-lays-in-on-wayward-teens/112000603

 

 

 

 

one day I hope grace and love and mercy will prevail

grace can come in so many ways
on days such as these
much like love

in the reaching of a hand
as the words “I forgive” pour forth
freely and quickly

in the vehemence of a child
who doesn’t understand why killing
would ever be okay
and says that the folks in that big city
must be out of their minds
except for the ones who run that doll store
“because it really is lovely though”

in a cup of coffee and a muffin
gifted over the miles
to lift a spirit and share light
in the darkness

in the signs held by hands
that are weary
from the weight of worry
but still join together
in prayerful petitions and praises

in the messages sent by family
and friends
with encouragement
and permission to shed tears
and be angry
and then to move on…..
as on is the only place left to go
and make all of this mean
something

love and grace can be found
in all of these small moments
and so many more
and when I look back on this day,
I hope that I remember those
the most

that love and grace
joined together
and erased the lines between people
and we all held hands and
hoped that love would win
and grace would triumph
and mercy would be granted

love to all

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Complacent-see

Dear Kelly,

They say the way to a Mama’s heart is through her children.  Or maybe I’m the only one who says that.  Anyway, tonight I’m writing to you because you have made a powerful difference in my daughter’s life.

My oldest, now a junior in college, attended the vigil for your planned execution last March.  I’m not sure what either of us were expecting, but we left there changed people.  We arrived as people who believe in redemption not revenge, but when we left our stories had intertwined with yours.  As I stood under the bright lights out on that cold dark evening, I faced the prison where I had no idea what you were going through.  I had no idea what to pray, so I stood watching.  Waiting.  Letting my heart pour out everything it was feeling and watching.  Hoping that you could feel God with you.  And know that you are loved.  By God and so many of us whom you have never met.

While I stood there, focused, straining to catch a glimpse or an idea of what was going on in the building beyond the trees, my daughter sat in the camp chair we brought and she searched for information on her phone.  These smart phones are pretty amazing what they can do.  She dug and she was able to tell me what appeals were going on as we stood there.  And then…..

she kept clicking.

I asked her what she was doing.

“Looking up law schools.”

That night changed her, Kelly.  I saw an adult emerge that night.  She was decided as we left the prison grounds and she has not looked back.  She did what she had to and changed her majors to what law schools look for and what she is passionate about.  Psychology and–you should know–Religious Studies.  She is now an intern at a law firm and has been studying for the LSAT much of the summer.

She recently read that a disproportionate number of death penalty cases come from the county where she is in school and where a law school is also located.  That decided it.  She wants to study law there and then become a defense attorney there as well.

All because of you.

Thank you, Kelly.

Tonight my heart is heavy.  You are scheduled to be executed by the state tomorrow evening, September 29, at 7 p.m.  The Parole board has agreed to another clemency hearing at 11 in the morning.  I pray, I PRAY with my fingers crossed and my eyes closed and brow furrowed and with everything in me that they will commute your sentence to life in prison.  That is what I hope will happen.  My head and heart hurt too much when I contemplate what it means if they don’t.

See, I became complacent.  Right before your scheduled execution in March, I made calls and sent emails and shared posts and tweeted articles, and I was so overjoyed that the drugs were cloudy and there was an anti-death penalty movement growing very strong across our nation that I let it slide.  I shared a story or two every now and then.  I paid attention when there was an article about the cloudy drugs.  I listened and I read, but spring and then summer came and went, and I was not prepared for the news of your new execution date.

I’m sorry.

Kelly, I hope you can feel the energy from where you are–the furor and the drive of all the people who care for you and about you.  Those of us whom you’ve met and touched directly and those whom you have not.

You are loved.

You have made a difference.

It is my belief that you have so many more lives to touch, and that you will continue to make a difference in the lives of people who are broken and lost and just need someone to say, “I’m here.”

It is my belief that your children who love you so very much deserve to have you a part of their lives for many, many years to come.

It is my belief that one day we will see an end to the killing as punishment.  That the death penalty will be abolished for always.

I just hope I am right.

The thing that I remember so strongly from that day in March, your second execution date as the snow prevented your first one from happening as scheduled, was that the day held the promise of spring.  I had so hoped you were able to go out and feel the warm sun and the gentle breeze on your face.  That you knew that winter was fading and spring was coming.

And here we are again, on the precipice of seasons changing.  Only I hope that summer is not the only season ending.  I hope that the season of government executions and hatred and people standing divided will end as well.  I hope that you will be here to see the leaves change, to hear the Christmas carols sung by those with great voices and those with great spirit.  I hope you will ring in the New Year, knowing your season of fear and worry and time on death row is over.

I hope for all of the good things.

And I hope that one year in the near future, my daughter’s wish will come true.  That she will be able to meet you face to face and tell you about how you changed her life.  How your story being intertwined with hers for a moment set her on the path of fighting for fair trials and justice for all.  But mostly so she can smile and tell you, “Thank you.”  And you can see the light in her eyes that you helped put there.

Redemption is a beautiful story, Kelly.  And our people are fighting to choose redemption over revenge.

I can only imagine what tonight is like for you.  For your children.  This is inhumane, in my opinion, this torture of not knowing.

Oh, all the not knowing.  Neither you nor the people who love you deserve the reality and fear and worry and waiting of this night.

I’m sorry, Kelly.  I became complacent.  I’ve spent the past ten days trying to remedy that, and make up for all the days I didn’t speak up and say, “This is NOT okay.  Not in my name.”

I am asking God once again to be with you this night.  That perhaps you will get some rest and have peace in your heart.  And the same for your children and your Sisters and all of those who care.  May the peace that passes all understanding be with all of you and all of us, who join you in the worry and the waiting.

Thank you, Kelly.  For not letting who you were define who you were to become.  For letting your story bring so much hope and heart to all of us.

And for reminding us that grace abounds and love ultimately wins.

Holding you in the light,

Tara

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If anyone would like to speak out against the scheduled execution, please read below about the ways you can still make a difference:  

(from the #Kellyonmymind Facebook page)

CALL the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles and ask for mercy for Kelly. They’re considering Kelly’s petition and a call will make a big difference. Call, tweet, post. please! Less than 20 hours to save Kelly’s life so please call and ask others to call. Then tweet and post them too! Let’s do whatever we can to stand with Kelly! 

GA Board of Pardons & Paroles
CALL TODAY (404) 656-4661 (press “0” then “4”)
Clemency_Info@pap.state.ga.us
www.facebook.com/GAParoleBoard
Twitter: @GA_ParoleBoard

The Case for Grace

I was aware of the situation.  I knew.  I hadn’t read everything about it, but I knew the date was coming soon, and I felt like wringing my hands–unsure of what I could do, of anything I could do to change things.

And so, with all that I had going on–from my day to dailies with all the extras added in–I let it go. I let it slide.

And.  I did.  Nothing.

Today as I was about to head out on yet another errand, I saw the notice that this was the day.  I sighed.  It was inevitable, I guess.  No one was listening, and so it would happen as planned.

And I went on my way, resigned to that fact.

Richard Glossip would be executed at 4 p.m. this afternoon in Oklahoma.

Despite the new evidence and appeals to the Governor for a 60 day stay of execution, it would go through as scheduled.

When I came out of our second errand of the day, I had a notice on my phone.  I sat in the parking lot in my vehicle, and I clicked on it.

And there it was:

Oklahoma Court Halts Execution Of Richard Glossip Amidst Claims He’s Innocent

I had hardly read the heading all the way through before tears were springing from my eyes, and I found myself sobbing.

“Oh, thank God!” I said, choked up.  I whispered the words, but my hesitation of cranking up our vehicle and moving along had the littles in the back curious as to what was going on.

The thing is, I hadn’t fully realized how much this was weighing on me today until it wasn’t.  The life of this man I never met mattered more to me than I knew.

And I think that’s kind of how it should be.  Life is precious.  Too many die each day from things we can’t control.  Cancer.  Heart disease.  Tragic accidents.  So many things.  I cannot wrap my heart and brain around the killing of someone when it can be controlled.  No matter which side of the law the person doing it is on.

As I attempted to explain to my two littles why my heart was happy and why suddenly I was dancing to nearly every song on the radio, they tried to make sense of it.  Cooter wanted to know if it was supposed to have been execution by beheading (yes, we’ve talked a bit about those days).  They wanted to know if Mr. Glossip had committed the crime he’d been accused of, and I explained that there were some serious doubts that had been presented.  It was then that our Princess asked me the question that took my breath away.

“Is he African-American?”

Oh no. What?

“No, he isn’t.”

“Oh.  Huh.  Well, huh.”  She paused.  I asked her why she had asked that. “Well, when I read that book about the woman who wouldn’t give up her seat on the bus…..mmmmm…..”

“Rosa Parks!” Cooter piped up from the backseat.

“Yes!  Rosa Parks!  Well, in that book she talked about how sometimes folks accused African-Americans of doing things they hadn’t done just because they didn’t like them.  I was thinking that might have happened this time if he had been dark-skinned like her.”

Y’all.  I don’t even know what to do with that.  My children are aware of social injustices at ages 8 and 10.  Which is a hard and good and sad thing all at the same time.

I want them to understand.  I know that is important for them to affect change and help this world heal and be better for all.

And yet, I wish we had more talks about the life cycle of the earthworm or how funny the idea of a swan with a trumpet is or about the nutritional merit of Cooter’s favorite cereal.  I want to talk about happy, random things more and the serious business of life and death and justice less.

But that is not to be.

Not if I want them to grow to be strong and wise advocates for goodness, justice, and mercy.

And I do want that.

Very badly.

Tonight I’m thankful for the people who didn’t look the other way in Richard Glossip’s case, the ones who have hung in there and fought for justice for this man.  I give thanks for the people of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals who gave him a stay of execution for two weeks.  I hope that is enough time for his attorneys to convince the powers that be to do the right thing.  And I hope that is enough time for me to figure out how to stand up and speak out more on this very subject.  Because it’s more than a case–it’s a life.

And I know very dearly how precious each breath each person on this earth takes is.  As long as someone is taking a breath, there is a chance, no matter how big or small, for redemption.

At least that’s what I have to believe.

Because I need that grace myself each and every day.

Love to all.

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All of our voices matter and can make a difference in protecting another life–one filled with grace and redemption.  Read more here on how you can help.  #kellyonmymind  and the story of her vigil here and here

“Be Faithful to the Truth”

Tonight, thanks to my Fella and the littles and to the universe lining up such that no one was sick or upset or in desperate need, I was able to go to a meeting about life.  And how all life is valuable.  And precious.

Aub and I met some fascinating people, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us.  Right now I’m still soaking it all in, so forgive me if I’m not forthcoming about it all.  Perhaps another night.

Tonight I just want to share three thoughts with you.  A man who works in a residential community shared these two quotes from Dorothy Day, a journalist, social activist, and Catholic convert.


At one point in the evening, a gentleman who spent half of his 29 years in prison on death row shared how he begins his day each morning.  He wakes up and gives thanks for a forgiving God.  And then he strives to live and treat others so that each morning he can dare to ask God to treat him the way he treated others the day before.

Oh, y’all.

I can’t even.

My heart is full.  And my mind is spent.

So I’ll just leave y’all with that for tonight.

Love to all.