This morning I took the kids to our local park to play, and it turned out two other moms from our church were there with their own kids, as well as my sister’s kids, so we ended up being quite the party! The park was almost completely deserted, which I have been told is actually a sign that it may not be a good time to be hanging out there (like maybe everyone else knows something that you don’t…) but we settled in for good swinging and running and sand-play.
The only other people who were in the park were two black youth sitting at a picnic table to one side of us, and at one point I realized that another man was walking very quickly toward us. There were a few cars around the perimeter of the park that had caught my eye because they had people standing next to them for the duration of our time there, and on my walk over there had been that sense that today was one of those days where the air felt just a bit more tense than normal. So when this guy started toward us, and then when he quickly grabbed the two guys next to us and they all hustled out of there, it caught my attention and I looked around and saw four other young men approaching on bikes.
The four guys parked their bikes a few feet from our play area, and settled in for a stay. So there we were, the three moms and six kids, and the otherwise empty park except for our new visitors. It was interesting to see the three of us react: Christie immediately started packing up sand toys; Jen started saying out loud to her son that it was time to go home for lunch; I likewise began picking up toys and getting my stroller packed up for the walk home. We never spoke of why we were all leaving, and to be honest it was close to lunchtime and we had all probably been planning to hit the road soon. But it was not accidental that our leaving was hastened by the others’ arrival.
Earlier we had all been talking, and I had asked Christie about the Mayor’s visit to her school (she’s a teacher) the day before. She told me that he had not actually shown up himself, but rather representatives from his office had come for the visit. The reason he had not come was that he was in a series of high-level meetings concerning a drive-by shooting this past week that had claimed the life of a twenty-three day old infant being pushed by his mother in a stroller. The baby’s murder took place just blocks from the hospital where we are due to give birth any time, and the baby was a random victim in a shooting that targeted a street vendor who had perhaps not payed his “tax” to the local gang for selling items on that corner.
And so it was with thoughts of that mom and that precious lost one that I left the park with tears stinging my eyes as I pushed my stroller away.