I took my little beauties out for Dr. Pepper floats tonight. Just look at those baby blues! They are both so stinkin’ gorgeous!
They were excited and confused when I told them I wanted to celebrate our life. But today, of all days, I thought it was important to realize the things we are so grateful for. I felt it was important to celebrate the fact that we are alive. To rejoice about having a home where peace reigns supreme, even when times get tough or things don’t go exactly as planned. To take a moment to remember how far we have come in the past few years.
But at the core of our celebration was anger. Anger so deep it burns my very soul. Because this celebration came on the heels of a day that should never have happened. Our opportunity for gratitude came from a swift, brutal reminder that there are others who have not escaped, others who are still living in hell every day. Others begging to be seen, to be heard, and falling through the cracks.
The day began like most other days, getting up early and still feeling late by the time all the homework, shoes and show and tell was located. Kissed their precious little heads as I said goodbye and I love you. Headed off to work, worked a little longer than I normally do, but got home pretty early, all things considered. I got out of my car and started walking toward the door when I heard something that sounded like a gunshot rather close by. I didn’t think too much about it except to ponder what it might have been for a brief second. Surely not a gun, although I don’t know many other things that sound like that. Fireworks, maybe? I unloaded my bags and began to clear the table, which had been left in disarray thanks to our hurried morning. I heard sirens as the emergency responders flew by, but I don’t live in the best neighborhood, so sirens are a pretty normal thing every day. I didn’t put the two together at all.
Then I received the emergency alert. There had been gunshots fired near my son’s school. The police were surrounding a house in our neighborhood and they would be announcing alternate dismissal plans pending the situation’s resolution. I looked out the door and saw the swarm of police cars. Less than two blocks separated me from whatever was happening out there.And the road between is the road my son walks home on every single day.
My heart dropped. Quickly I looked up the local news because I knew they would be covering it. I needed to know my son was safe. I needed to know what the cause was. I needed to know it wasn’t just some crazed lunatic that might head my direction, or worse, my kid’s direction. Maybe it was an accidental shot? Maybe someone was just spooked? Maybe drugs? That isn’t terribly uncommon around here. Maybe it wasn’t really much. Hopefully, just an accident of some sort. I tried to entertain more positive ideas as I waited what felt like forever for my phone to load the news.
Domestic violence. The words tore through my entire body. Someone had called about a burglary and when the police showed up, they realized it was a domestic violence call. There weren’t any more details than that. And most likely there wouldn’t be many without a serious tragedy to sensationalize it. Unfortunately, its happened around Springfield way too many times to be big news. But encountering it so close to my home rocked my little world a bit. Domestic violence always brings up the most turbulent emotions for me. Reminders of a time when I didn’t know if I would live or die. I wondered how many times she had attempted to get away. How many times had she called the police? How many times had she checked her windows and doors that day alone just hoping that she would remain safe? How many times had the police said there was nothing they could do?
I stood outside, looking at the swarm of police vehicles on our street, praying for the situation to be resolved. I hoped for the best, prepared for the worst. You just never know in these situations. I wondered if it was one of the women I had met on my leisurely walks with the kids around the neighborhood this summer. I wondered if she had escaped. The news said that a female had exited the house, so hopefully that meant she was no longer in danger.
The school let us pick up the kids, considering it an isolated incident that would not effect them as long as they weren’t walking by. I waited in the pick up line, still praying.
When Jaymin got in the car, he was unaffected. It made me realize how much I appreciate our little bubble. How much our lives have changed. How much love we have in our home. We drove to Jaylah’s school and I told them that we were going to celebrate and appreciate our life today. We drank our floats and discussed all the things we are excited about, the best parts of our day and what we really love about each other. We had lots of hugs, lots of snuggles, built gingerbread houses, listened to Christmas music and danced until bedtime.
But as we celebrated our successes and our peace tonight, there was another woman trying to find a way out. As we discussed how much we appreciate each other, there was someone being told how worthless they were. As we danced, someone fell at the hand of another. As we looked forward to the future with excitement, she trembled with fear at what the night might hold. As we uplifted each other, someone else was being destroyed.
And that is unacceptable.
I looked at the news again to see what they were saying about the situation.
There had been numerous domestic violence calls at this residence. 8 since September 26 alone. She had a restraining order, but the last time she called, she was between the temporary and permanent order and they could/would do nothing to help her. Oh, how well I remember that feeling. The checking over your shoulder, looking through the house to make sure no one was there when you came home, calling the police because he would sit down the block attempting to intimidate you.
And as I remembered those feelings, I began to get angry. For those who know me, it takes a lot to make me angry. A. Whole. Lot.
But I am furious right now. I am enraged for my friends who have had to endure this. I am angry that the Springfield Police Department responds to over six calls EVERY SINGLE DAY. I am livid for my children who still have to see this when they visit their father because “domestic violence is not child abuse” according to our system. It makes me sick that this spans every demographic, from doctors and lawyers to the homeless. I am disgusted that future generations are being taught that this way of life is acceptable, or at the very least unpunishable. I HATE that this is “normal” here.
It is absolutely UNACCEPTABLE that this is happening. And one thing that struck me was the fact that once the reporters realized it wasn’t a glamorous school shooting, the coverage became about 5 sentences, because it is just “another domestic violence thing”.
I know there has been a lot of coverage of what the “Ink Ink” girls said on TLC lately, but when it comes to how women are treated here, maybe they had a valid point. As many good things as Springfield has going for it, the underbelly still exists and hides in plain sight.
When I have mentioned to people that I came from an abusive relationship, the most common question is not “what consequence did he get?” but rather “what did you do to make him so mad?” And that, my dear friends, is the wrong question. It is heinous that children have to be physically bruised and battered to be protected because their hearts and souls have no value in the current system as it is. That the value of women is so small that a law was just passed that says if you consent to a date and get raped, you can no longer press charges because you were on a “consensual” date. That victims must meet with the person that tried to kill them because “joint parenting” is more important than protecting someone.
Our world is BROKEN. And the only way that we can change it is to stand up and do something about it. The only way that our voices can be heard is if we speak out. The only way that we will win is if we fight.
So, I am done sitting on my duff, expecting that other people will speak out for those who are hurting. I am done living in fear of what others might think. I am done hesitating because of the backlash when I talk about my story. I am finished living anything other than the life I am called to.
My life is destined to reach those in need. I can make a difference. I can be a light, no matter how small, in a desperate, dark world. My story, my pain, can help someone. As I am finishing up my new book, I am struck by the realization that if my daughter were going through the things I went through, I would desperately want someone to reach out to her. And I realize that perhaps I can be that someone to another mother’s daughter.
So, I hope, I pray, that your new year is focused on seeing where you can bring light. Your story is powerful. Your past can touch someone. And I hope that at least one of your resolutions this coming year is to bring hope and healing to others. As a friend of mine said last night “if you can even touch one life, it’s worth it”. I desire for you to make an incredible difference in someone’s life going forward. That you would stand up for love, for kindness, for justice, and for hope. That the atrocities of 2016 and before can be forgotten, wiped clean, as we use our pain to give us power, to bring change.
I pray that you get involved. Speak out for what is right on social media. Write a letter to your representative. Adopt a family for Christmas. Become a big brother or sister. Find a cause and become it’s champion. Love people. Especially the people that you are close to. And learn to listen. Because so many are crying out for help. I know I don’t want to miss any opportunities.
Yes, tonight we celebrated. But it is in the celebration that I find the determination to fight. So celebrate your victories, but please, remember to fight for those whose voice is still unheard. Use your growth to reach out to those who need help. Do something. And if we all commit to doing something, anything, to make our immediate circle a better place, we will change EVERYTHING.
Let’s change the world together, shall we?
Love you all!