I remember it like it was yesterday. The Lady had picked out the cutest outfit and she'd gotten up early to do my hair. Even then I had a taste for flash. I loved going anywhere with my daddy, so I excitedly jumped in the car. The next bit is a blur. I remember seeing bright colors and tons of other children. I turned to see my father's back. He was walking away from me. I called his name. "Daddy?" Surely, he'd just had a moment of forgetfulness. Surely, he wasn't leaving me. He turned, smiled and waved. "Daddy?" He continued walking and I felt my heart break a fraction. "DADDY?!" What had I done? How could he do this? Where was he going? I wailed.
The sounds of my cries broke his heart a fraction, he came back to get me. It would go on and on like this until eventually I learned to stay. I learned to stifle my cry and focus on the bright colors and the blocks. I learned to lie on my tiny mat and daydream. I am 37 years old and the trauma of that first separation still lives in my sense memory. It shares a room with the news of his murder, the final separation. It sounds like the slamming of car doors, like seeing mouths move with muted words. It feels like a seam ripper.
When I think about these babies and I hear their souls coming out of their throats, I wonder what they will dream about on their tiny mats. I wonder if that morning, that night before, their mothers picked out their outfits and did their hair. I wonder if they clung to their daddy's hands because, like me, it was a blanket and a shield. I wonder if they will make God promises to never complain or cry. I wonder if they will promise perfection for a chance to hold that hand again. I wonder if the people who blame their parents have ever had a dream on a tiny mat. I wonder how they'd do without their blankets and shields.
I've not come here to lecture you on making more phone calls or donating more money or registering more people to vote. I know my choir and my congregation. I know you're already beating down walls and searching for ways to fill helplessness and combat despair. I've not come to remind you that we've been doing this since the beginning of time, you know this to be true. I've simply come to remind you to remember your tiny mat. Never take your blankets and shields for granted and don't get to caught in the trap of us and them. Because the truth is, as long as there's an 'us' trying to bring 'them' to their knees, there will always be a tiny wail in the distance.