As I drove my son to school this morning, the first thing we heard on the radio was Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. I found it very poignant and emotional following the two police shootings of African American citizens this week. I hadn’t yet heard about the brutal attack on police officers in Dallas that occurred as we slept last night.
I’m currently working with my 4-year-old son on understanding how powerful the words we choose can be. He struggles with fear of the dark and fear of being alone, and last night as I tucked him into bed I heard him repeat, “I’m too scared, I’m too scared, I’m too scared…” I stopped him and asked him to instead repeat “The words I tell myself are really important,” three times. I then asked him to repeat “I’m not scared,” three times and then “I’m big and brave,” three times. I suggested he keep saying those things in his head until he fell asleep.
He said, “But mom, I don’t believe that I’m brave.” I paused and took a deep breath; my attempt to process my own emotional response to his statement which was a perfect expression of something I’ve struggled with my whole life. I explained that sometimes you don’t have to believe something completely, you just have to have a little willingness for it to be true deep in your heart. If you feed that willingness with the right words to help it grow eventually you’ll start to really believe and know that it’s true.
This morning as we buckled into the car, Redemption Song had just started playing on the radio. Noah asked if we could listen to Grupo Fantasma instead. “Yes,” I said, “but I want to listen to this song first. This song is called Redemption Song. It’s by Bob Marley. He’s a very important musician. He used music to help him express his very important words.”
We finished Redemption Song, then heard Grupo Fantasma’s version of Immigrant Song, originally a Led Zeppelin tune. It’s Noah’s chosen warm up song to help him prepare for school. Guys, I couldn’t have chosen two more fitting songs for us to hear this morning with all of the turmoil our country is currently feeling. I couldn’t have timed these this perfectly if I tried. There were other forces at work here today.
After safely depositing my precious cargo into his class room, I returned to my car and turned on NPR expecting to hear more coverage of the police shootings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minneapolis, Wednesday. I was completely stunned to hear KUT 90.5 morning anchor, Jennifer Stayton, explain, “We will be staying with Morning Edition for an extra hour to hear coverage of the shooting in Dallas last night.”
I didn’t stay up late last night, and I don’t listen to the news or turn on the TV before we leave for school in the morning. Occasionally I listen to news coverage on the way to school, but these days I never know what I will hear when I turn on the radio. I never know what my son will hear, and I don’t always know if I will be prepared to explain, at some level that a 4-year-old can comprehend, the events that unfold in our country.
I’m grateful that I chose to hear Bob Marley and Grupo Fantasmo while my son was in the car today. I would not have had the words to help him understand the news coverage of the shooting that killed five police officers and one DART officer and injured seven others in Dallas at the end of a peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
I came home and hugged my fiance and I cried. I cried because I am sad and I am scared. I’m sad for the people who’ve died this week and for their families. I’m sad for the little 4-year-old girl who watched her mommy’s boyfriend die and then tried to comfort her mother as she was handcuffed by the police who had just killed someone who was undoubtedly an important male figure in her life. I’m sad for the people who died in Dallas last night.
I feel scared. I FEEL SCARED! Scared of the polarized environment that seems to have become the water in which we swim without our knowing it. Scared of the fact that it feels like this intensity is reaching a zenith. Scared of what could come next. Scared of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Scared of other people. Scared of being alone. Scared of Donald Trump. Scared of Hillary Clinton. And scared that no one seems to know what will fix all of our problems.
I’m not sure if I feel more scared than sad or more sad than scared. It’s hard to feel several emotions at once, a skill that I only began to learn just a few years ago. Because emotional intelligence is relatively new to me it’s very easy for me to become overwhelmed by those emotions and let them control me or even paralyze me.
I know that I can’t let fear paralyze me. I know that, as appealing as it sounds, I can’t buy up 12 acres of land in Central Texas, build a hippie commune, and hide out for the next 2 decades while this all blows over because I’m scared.
My mother told me, “Pray for a shift in human consciousness, for we are in need,” and even as I type that I feel a lump well up in my throat because I’m not sure I actually believe the needed shift will ever actually come. Sometimes it’s hard to take my own advice and remember that the words I tell myself are really important, but tonight I plan to repeat, “I’m not scared. I’m big and brave,” over and over until I fall asleep.