At the end of a heartbreaking week, we are still holding our breath, accepting slowly that things will never look the same but wondering if we will, as the optimistic cry, “come back stronger.”
Coming back does not have a timestamp, and perhaps it is true but not true for us. Perhaps it is only true for our children or our children’s children. It is good enough that we are preparing a way for them, but I too want to reap in song and dance what we sow.
The destruction has been horrific, almost unreal. After the initial burning and looting, I went downtown to volunteer for a couple of hours and saw dozens of people just walking around taking photos, videos, pointing with blank faces from cars with the windows rolled up like a dazed tourist. I did not want our city on display in its grief. News trucks came in and cameramen filmed a woman sweeping, filmed the mayor standing outside in a park surrounded by lights, hands in his pockets, filmed a man washing the sidewalk. The embers smoked for days. Men in suits sat in chairs behind their cars, laptops propped up in the open hatchback, editing their photographs and audio. Men and women in the streets called for prayer, revival, defunding, death.
But most staggering has been the sheer number of people who literally do not grow weary of doing good. They are tireless, cheerful, creative. Restoration and rebuilding are playful to them. All of the somber boarded up windows become alive, works of art, mothers taking their children to paint hearts and handprints all along the streets, artists painting the lake, the lighthouse. There is too much food, too many people to hand it out. “Does anyone know how to use a saw? I need to cut this board to fit my window.” There are several volunteers. I thought from the headlines and the photographs that our city was full of only anger and division but here – they are reaping joy and hope and there is enough to go around for anyone who comes with their hands extended.