No Safe Place

No safe place artThe woman cradled her newborn son in her arms and knew she would never be the same. The world expanded around her and she momentarily saw into the future—his future. She saw his round face and bright smile that would light up her life. His eyes were clear and looked deeply into hers with limitless love and gratitude. “Thank you,” his eyes seemed to say, “for bringing me into this world. I waited a long time for the perfect family for me.”

The bubble around them closed and she was back in the hospital with her husband and young daughter. She looked at the tiny being in her arms and knew he was a special person who would make a difference in the world. She vowed then to keep her children safe from the darkness in her country that hunted them.

But the darkness was everywhere. She went for a walk with her infant in the stroller and her four-year-old daughter walking alongside her. A car sped by, obscenities spewing from it. She held her breath—she was too far now to get home. Thank God, they seemed to be gone. She heard the tires squeal and cringed inside. But she kept walking, her spine straight. The car screeched to a stop next to them and two young men with shaved heads and the same bandanas jumped out.

“Hey, (obscenity), who gave you permission to walk here? Get your (obscenity) ass outta here!”

The young mother didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t stop with them there, but she was afraid to move, too. She squeezed her little girl’s hand really tight. There was a hitch in her step, but she walked on.

“(Obscenity!) Did you hear me? Get the f— OUTTA here.” She continued forward. A rock hit her in the back. And another. One to the back of her head drew blood. They laughed and peeled away.

Her daughter tugged on the woman’s blouse. “Momma, I’m scared.”

“Me, too, baby. But they’re gone now. Let’s go to the park like we planned.”

“Okay, momma.”

“I love you, baby. Everything’s gonna be okay.”

The woman and her husband moved to a different neighborhood, but the darkness was there, too. She never knew how or when it would strike: Shouted obscenities? In the grocery store parking lot? A confrontation? At the neighborhood park? Suspicious looks? The kids bullied at school? She couldn’t understand why some people despised them without knowing them. “Why?” she asked herself over and over. “How can you hate somebody when you don’t know them? Shouldn’t that be a law? No hate until you’ve taken the time to see who you’re hating on?”

The mother did the best she could to keep her children safe. For the most part, they stayed close to home. She went to the school whenever there was name-calling and bullying. She learned to stand up to people who accosted her, saying firmly but politely, “There’s no call for that.” She taught her daughter and son to respect everyone unless proven unwarranted, because she knew in her heart this was a ‘universal law.’

The woman was cooking dinner and her children were down the street at the park. The doorbell rang. “Come with me! Your son has been shot!”

“No! she screamed and ran to the park. Sure enough, it was her baby boy lying on the ground, the life spilling from his body. She shrieked and ran toward him, every Mother-cell in her being crying out to him to hang on, that she was coming. She hit a wall—of men with cropped hair, all wearing the same dark blue clothing.

“You shall not pass,” they said.

“But, that’s my baby! Please, let me go to him. He needs me.”

“You shall not pass.”

And so, the little baby she had held in her arms thirteen short years before and who had so blessed their lives, died alone on the grass at the neighborhood park, his mother, who would have died in his place if she could, just a few feet away, an impassable gulf of inhumanity between them.

The light within her flickered for a moment and then went out, just as her young son expelled his last breath.

The darkness celebrated.

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