I was sound asleep just a little while ago. Something woke me; I am not sure what. I reached down to check on Chester, my Golden Retriever, who sleeps on a doggy bed on the floor within arm’s reach. His bed was empty. I don’t know why I reached under my bed, but that is where I found him. In his six and a half years of life, I have only found Chester under the bed one other time…shortly after our son left for the Army. I am telling you, this dog is the barometer of change.
Finding him under the bed distressed me enough that I decided to check my phone. Maybe one of my kids texted in the middle of the night and there was some sort of emergency…I mean, the dog was under the bed…something was not right in the world. The dog’s senses are sharp.
My news feed told me that once again teargas was used in Ferguson, Missouri. In fact, a ninety-year-old Holocaust survivor was arrested for protesting. What is happening? It seems so unbelievable that all this is going on in 2014!
Every August since 2005, I have taught in a small Christian high school, two miles from the QT that was burned down in the aftermath of the shooting of an African American teenager. That small Christian high school has sixty percent African American students and thirty-five percent white students. The remaining five percent are Asian, Hispanic, or otherwise classified. The North side of St. Louis is known to be a somewhat violent, racially divided area. Some people are afraid to go there. Some people wondered why I taught there.
I didn’t want to teach anywhere else! My students and I were able to discuss issues in my classroom with humor and candor that might not be discussed outside those walls. The school fosters an open dialogue that values Christian unity amid diversity. My students taught me so much about dispelling stereotypes and respecting difference.
I am not teaching there this year, the year that many of them go home at night to Ferguson. The year that some of my grads are demonstrating every night. The year that neighboring public schools have closed in response to the violence. I am not there.
I have started a new chapter. This morning, in Ann Arbor, I went to the post office and was jokingly reprimanded by the African American postal worker who didn’t like me calling him ‘sir’. I smilingly explained to him that I had just moved back to Michigan from a place where using ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ is respectful and expected. He smiled knowingly and we wished each other a great day. Then, I exchanged pleasant conversation with the African American cashier at the grocery store who didn’t need to check my ID when I purchased some wine because it was her ‘job to know’ who to card. My nails were done in a salon staffed exclusively by Asian American women who joked with me and my daughter and exchanged smiles with us. I came home to a campus that houses a small but diverse population. I didn’t have a hint of racial tension in my day.
Before I went to bed I checked the news and saw peaceful protests in Ferguson, an upbeat interview with the new chief of police there, a statement from President Obama encouraging open dialogue and peaceful resolution. I wanted to believe we were moving in the right direction. I went to sleep with Chester on his doggy bed by my side.
But several hours later, I am aware that all is not right in the world tonight. I mean, Chester is hiding under my bed. The dog who follows me everywhere, did not budge when I came to the living room at two in the morning to write. He, like many tonight, is distressed.
I, too, am distressed. Like Job, I “weep for those in trouble,” my “soul grieves for the poor.” As I “hope for good, evil comes,” As I “look for light, then comes darkness” (Job 30:25-27).
But even in trouble, even in darkness, God is still God. He is in Ferguson. He is in Ann Arbor. And “He who watches over us will not slumber” (Psalm 121:3). I pray that Ferguson, and those that I love there, can get some sleep while He is on watch.