A weird thing happened last night
I ate dinner at a very expensive restaurant. The meals were each no less than 75 dollars per entree.
I was dressed in my “fancy” clothes and so, too, were all the people in the room. Most of the people in the room looked like me…in our third quarter of life, white, dressed in their fine clothes too.
The restaurant itself, overlooked a beautiful landscape in Charlotte. Holiday lights lay a festive glow to the well manicured lawn/park outside.
When BAM, a loud knock on the broad window pulled my attention.
A black youth stood there…trying to get our attention. I saw him and just as I did, a security guard came and removed him from the premises.
Several minutes later, it happened again. This time though, a young black female. She was shouting as loud as she could…”See me. I’m hungry over here.”
Several people in the room now noticed. But again, within seconds, she was removed from the property.
Now I am nearly finished with my meal, when BAM. One more time except now there are a half dozen folks…all black and all holding signs. Some are quiet. Some are crying. Some are banging on the glass and some are yelling.
They are clearly in distress and trying to get the attention of all the people in the restaurant.
One sign says, “See me.” “The other says, “Hear me.” The other says, “One in three of my friends will go to prison.” One says, “I’m scared I will die young.” One says, “I am hungry and trying to feed my kids.” And one says “Black Lives Matter.”
I am only a table or two across from the window and so I take a moment to look into their faces.
I see them. The father. The son. The mother. The daughter.
I look around me and many in the room are seeing them too.
There is a discomfort in the room that is palpable.
Several people at their tables begin calling out to the restaurant management, “Something must be done. Take them away! They are disturbing our meal.”
I heard the man at the table next to me, utter beneath his breath, “They need to just get off their lazy ass and get a job.”
I look back at their faces…there at the glass…their brown eyes…their concerned glances…the desperation.
They are taken away…this time in handcuffs.
The room settled back down, but just as my dessert arrived…a beautiful, ornate chocolate eclair by the way…more people showed up at the window.
A dozen or more, with sticks and signs and shouting and tears.
“I’M HUNGRY!” One shouted.
“I’M SICK AND NEED MEDICAL ATTENTION.”
“I HAVE NO HOPE.”
“MY DAUGHTER’S SCHOOL IS LACKING BOOKS.”
“OUR WATER IS BROWN.”
And then it happens…the thing many in the restaurant feared would happen and did happen…a young black boy, oh dear he couldn’t have been more than sixteen, took his stick and slammed it through the window.
I will never forget as he stepped through the broken glass…his eyes filled with fury, passion and frustration…and stood before the room filled with tables covered by fine white linens and sterling silver forks and knives and utensils that no one really ever uses…stood there out of breath, hands on hips, defiant and impatient.
And it hit me…like at my soul kind of hit me. If my child…no, when my child comes to me and says “See me. Listen to me. I am suffering, I am angry,” I do not turn away, call him lazy or call the police.
No…I stop what I’m doing, get present with him and listen.
I don’t try to fix him or correct him. I do not judge him or send him away. I love him. I listen. I try to get to the root of the dysfunction and see what part I have played in creating it.
This story isn’t actually true but a version of it was part of an intense conversation I had with an older black gentleman last night at Patrice Funderburg’s screening of “13th, the Documentary.”
Mr Johnson…I may never see you again…but I think you are some kind of sage or spirit or messenger somehow.
I see you and you have changed everything.