Stand. Listen. Love.

We have a bedtime routine with my one-year- old daughter, Helen. She gets a bath, a bottle, we rock and then she is laid in her crib for the night to go to sleep. This nighttime regimen was created when she was a newborn after plenty of reading and years of previous parenting experience, where my husband and I had a child in the middle of our bed.

Recently, when I lay Helen down she will wake and begin to whimper as soon as she discovers she is alone in her crib. As long as I stand by the crib and she knows I’m near after a few minutes she will fall into a sound sleep.

I could spend countless hours trying to figure out why Helen’s crib is a scary place and what I should do. I could become paralyzed and over think how to fix the situation.

Instead, I stand there at the side of her crib. Thinking, listening to her breath and occasionally say aloud, “I’m right here”.

Helen just needs to feel my love.

Tonight while standing by her crib, my mind was racing. Another young black man was shot by a police officer and my social media feed is drowned in posts. Posts from preachers,professionals and personal friends—some who are being advocates and some who are being adversarial. Videos of the violence. Statements from the young black man’s family. Articles about injustice and the racial war our communities continue to battle. My heart is heavy.

I scroll through the news feed and read each post. A few instances I click on the comment button and then change my mind as I begin to type. I don’t want to be in this conversation, I tell myself…it’s too complicated.

Then a woman who I respect and care for wrote a post. It reads:

I just can’t bring myself to watch the videos of these executions.  Thats what they are. I have a son and I am so afraid for him. He looks older than he is. He’s muscular. He sometimes rides his bike or walks home when its dark. I have to tell him if he’s ever stopped by an officer to keep his hands visible. Don’t make sudden moves or reach for anything. Comply with whatever they say even if that means getting arrested falsely.  I’d rather pay bail than pick out a casket.

My heart is no longer heavy, my heart is broken.

I know her. I know her son. She is a great mom and an amazing woman.

Relationships can be the force that drowns out the noise. Relationships allow us to hit pause to begin to take complicated issues and gain a glimpse of understanding. 

I could spend countless hours trying to figure out why her community is a scary place and what I should do. I could become paralyzed and over think how to fix the situation.

Instead, I will let her know– I’m thinking, I’m standing here and I’m listening. She is not alone.

She’s a friend who needs to feel my love.

by Heather Cunningham, to learn more about Heather’s work please visit thinktank-inc.org

*Shared with permission

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