Breaking My Heart Forward

Posted by | January 21, 2019 | Inspiration, Motherhood, Stories | No Comments

•MLK Jr. Day, 2019 •

Here’s a question that I don’t know the answer to:

• How do you explain the Civil Rights movement to a four year old? …Especially when she differentiates between kids – and grown ups – solely based on who’s “bigger.” (Bigger, to my four year old daughter, means taller.) She never mentions skin color.

Segregation, racism, Civil Rights… it’s a lot to cover when all she asked is:

  1. Who is MLK? and
  2. Can I dance ballet after my snack?

What I ended up saying…

“MLK worked hard his whole life to be sure every person was kind to every other person no matter what.”

Lame, right? Sanitized, inadequate explanation for my bright girl. It’s best I had on the spot. I thought to myself, “Kindness is an important value for our family, maybe I can tie MLK into that…” Still, I felt how I’d stripped the life and fire out of the American martyr, Martin Luther King.

•••

Later, I googled,

“How to explain civil rights to small children?”

And, this picture came up.

Instantly I started crying because I look at her and see my daughter.

All of our daughters.

Can you imagine being her parent? Being her mother, whose body offered itself like clay so that the invisible hand of life could form tiny cells into a person, a human baby, her baby? The mother who, for the past six years, washes her soup bowls, can always find her favorite sweater, and knows everything she’s thinking just by the look in her eyes?

This first black girl to go to a white elementary school in segregated 1960, requires police escort so that she isn’t physically attacked has a mom like I’m a mom. And I think, the escort can’t stop the words, the verbal violence that penetrates her small ears. She still moves through a sea of fury that won’t part for her, not even an inch, not even for a child.

Her mom, with the faith of Abraham, sent her baby girl to school.

How terrifying does the whole world look to you, when you’re so little in the face of so much hate?

How terrified do you have to be to hate this little girl?

For many of us the world looks way better today. That’s real. And what’s also real is that my world as a white American cannot compare to the world of every minority in America, the disenfranchised and hungry and oppressed, all around the world. Those of us who are privileged are very few, and we are born into responsibility. What are we going to do about all of it? All of the suffering? It’s been 60 years since this picture was taken, and I wonder if we are remotely on the path toward love. Toward healing. Toward kindness. It’s almost too much to contemplate. (And we don’t get a choice; we have to do more than just contemplate.)

But you know what else this picture showed me?

That I can also share with my four year old?

• One person *really and truly* can change the world from {how it is} to —> how it should be.

Even when – especially when – you’re just one person, even just a little girl. •

About Laurie Beard

just another person doing something she loves

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