As our world seemingly spun out of control last week, two black men dead, another five in blue murdered by a crazed shooter, I sprawled on the floor with my granddaughter, rolling a colorful plastic ball to and fro. I watched as she scrunched her face in fierce concentration, pushing on her chubby legs to extend her reach, chortling with delight as her fingers grasped the colorful orb only for it to slip out of her hold. And then we played the game again, and again.
So it goes, life writ large, as I despair at the killings in Baton Rouge and St. Paul, the videos replayed over and over, the horror of black men shot by those in blue and then of the carnage in Dallas as peaceful protest erupts in violence and five white officers killed. And life writ small, as each of us goes about our days, me, watching over a little one struggling to crawl, then walk, to grasp the world as she grasps that ball.
And while President Obama assures us that our world is not coming apart, that we are not as divided as we seem, the virulent racism that is our shameful history endures, even as we seek to uncover those very fault lines and cross them. And his quiet exhortation in our grief that we cannot step away from what we have wrought is almost lost in the incessant thrum of social media that continues to incite hatred and fear.
And yet, I walk the streets of New York City, pushing a stroller and reveling in the veritable sea of humanity, white, black, brown and every shade in between. I watch fathers clutch little ones tightly by the hand admonishing them to wait for the light to change as they cross the street, mothers walking comfortably arm and arm with daughters deep in conversation, swarms of joyfully plugged-in teenagers crowding the sidewalks and fragile seniors in twos or threes, some with canes and walkers, tentatively wending their way. My little one coos at the passersby, her eyes lighting up as she makes eye contact. She exacts a huge, toothy grin from a gritty construction worker hurrying to the job, he shaking his head and marveling at the little charmer. He chuckles, I smile, and then, he is gone. But the instant of that connection lingers on through my day.
What does it take to forge those human connections, to see ourselves in others, to see, as the tearful Dallas police chief David O. Brown gently prodded us in Stevie Wonder’s words, “you are me and I am you?”
Perhaps seeing the world spinning just out of our reach and a tiny new human being straining to take hold.