Today is Mother’s Day, carte blanche to do whatever I want, right? So I started by waking up at 5:30am to participate in the Walk for Peace, meeting up at church to carpool into Dorchester. On our way, I saw the Mother Teresa church, a homage to one of one of the world’s most well known peacemakers, which started my mind on the transition to navigating an unfamiliar area in a different context.
As we walked through the neighborhoods, I chatted with other church members, and initially tried to stay tucked into our “pack” behind the First Parish Chelmsford sign, while trying to navigate a stroller around the crowds and potholes. But after a while, I was able to let go of trying to stay close to the rest of my familiar group. As our Religious Education director reminded me, part of the day is to mingle with other people, start up impromptu conversations, and observe. We continued along the route as residents sat at their windows or on porches, many seeming unsure what to make of the 100s of people meandering along the street. We waved and smiled, especially at the mothers and the children. Cars passing by honked their horns in support. I wondered how many people felt it ironic that a peace walk was loudly interrupting their morning quiet or blocking traffic along their way. I didn’t feel like joining in on the bullhorn call-and-response of “what do we want?” “PEACE!” “when do we want it?” “NOW!” because peace, to me, is more quiet and introspective, not something to be demanded. But to many of these people, peace is something they actively strive to foster on a daily basis, something they will shout and fight for. There were dozens of people wearing T-shirts and carrying posters with pictures of loved ones, lost too young, to violence. Some were victims of an attack or shooting, others the collateral damage of a broken life lived with guilt and sorrow that led to depression and even suicide. One speaker asked, responding to the familiar “RIP” next to the name of a departed loved one, “What about Live in Peace or Grow Up in Peace?” Some people quietly held signs advocating peace and hope as they walked along. A little farther down the road, the woman with the bullhorn changed up her questions, talking about the importance of forgiveness as part of working toward peace.
I could listen in on conversations, observe the architecture of the buildings, think about the economics of the area. One block was full of Vietnamese signs, businesses and shops. Not far away, I saw a market advertising Spanish, Portuguese, Latin American and Caribbean foods. I thought about the different places that people came from, all living together in close proximity, probably bringing different ideas of culture, ethics, lifestyles and survival. I tried to recall how long it had been since I took the Red Line to explore a new area and felt really out of my element; I was glad to be able to come today with people I knew, surrounded by the crowds, and feel safe. So many churches, many of them housed in former auto-repair garages and store fronts, with friendly volunteers handing out water along the way. As we marched down one block, a fellow walker described the street as being one where shootings were common, and then recounting a story of when she was caring for children, and heard gun shots on the street. How they asked what the popping sound was, and what they should do. “We need to stay inside for now, then when the sirens come, we’re going to get out of here.” How she had seen a body laying on the street as the police arrived, and she ushered her charges home. Teenage girls recited chants in singsong voices that peace is possible, desiring peace in their neighborhood. Returning to the park, where dogs met one another with wagging tails, we reunited with our group, commented on the beautiful weather, admired my sleeping son, and made our way home to other activities in the safe-feeling suburbs. I was thankful for a few hours to be on the move, but with a quiet mind, meditating on the question of what I can really do to encourage peace, a question without any concrete answer. For today it is enough to bring my son to Dorchester, thankful that I have him, and hopeful that he’ll grow safely to adulthood. To be part of a movement of humanity, surrounded by others who put aside their other daily activities and priorities to literally take steps toward a more peaceful world, starting with a more peaceful neighborhood.