When I was six years old, I went to Baltimore for the first time. I have three memories from that bit of time. One, my family and I went to some fancy seafood restaurant near the harbor and I ate crab with the use of a hammer for my first time ever. Being encouraged to smash things at the dinner table is just about the best thing that can happen to a six year old, so of course I loved that. Two, we fed ducks and geese at a pond near our motel the day before we flew to move to the Azores. This was something we’d often done at my home before we began our moving process, so this was something familiar and special to me. Three, we walked along the harbor and through a shopping center and I found myself mesmerized by the employees at a fudge shop fittingly called “The Fudgery”. These folks were singing, tossing that fudge around, dancing, and providing a performance that just overall fascinated me. This little blonde kid with a bowl cut (me) was standing in front of the fudge case with a beaming smile. Their smiles, their laughter, their singing, the joy, and the presence of delicious fudge that I desperately wanted my parents to get for me…Well, as a six year old these were all of the best things in life. At the time I didn’t notice this fact, but in memory, these employees were mostly black. At the time, this was irrelevant to me. Now I can’t stop wondering what their lives are like there in Baltimore. Were they affected by these riots? Were they affected by police brutality? (In the last five years there have been 100 court judgments or settlements awarded to victims of police brutality and civil rights violations. And those are just the cases that got that far.) Are they still bringing people joy like they brought me? Is life and society bringing them joy?
Fast forward about five years later. I live in Virginia at this time. My family sometimes takes day trips up to D.C. and Baltimore. One day, we visit Baltimore and go by The Fudgery again. I loved it just as much as before. For my family, it was just a momentary pause. I don’t know if they even remember it. But I remember that brief moment we stopped by. It was a chance for me to remember an earlier joy I’d had five years ago. It was a chance to participate in an atmosphere of joy currently there before me. I remember one man in particular who worked there. He was black, singing as he flipped the fudge with his little scraper thing (I’m kind of unaware of fudge tool terminology), and smiling a big smile full of shiny white teeth. He had short dreads. He was a pretty young adult. I thought, “That’s a really cool guy”. Quickly, we were off to visit a science museum or something. But I’d had my moment. I’d gotten to see my favorite place.
Fast forward ten years. I now live in Seattle, WA. I’m watching racial tensions ignite across our country and praying for Baltimore as it experiences troubles I could never dream of. I’m praying for African Americans who feel unheard and utterly frustrated with the system of our society. I’m praying for the police and public officials in Baltimore, that they might be given wisdom, peace, and a spirit of reconciliation. I’m praying for business owners and the population of Baltimore, watching as conflict has descended on their home. But most of all, I’m praying for those people who made me smile as a six year old boy. I’m praying for that young black man, now in his 30s or so I suppose, who impacted me as an eleven year old boy. I’m praying that he’s safe. That he’s been free from police brutality. That he’s a voice for reconciliation. That he’s still bringing joy and happiness to people and wearing that big, contagious smile.
Baltimore, and the greater black community of our nation, is experiencing a great struggle right now. Pray for them. Stand with them. Acknowledge the wrongs wherever you want, but, more than that, choose to see the rights being done. Choose to see the good in people and strengthen that. Rally around the voices of reconciliation. Support the efforts for progress. Hear people out. Bring peace, justice, and understanding. Pray for Baltimore. Pray for Maryland. Pray for our nation. Pray for that man from The Fudgery with that beaming smile. I want you to know there’s light in the midst of these bits of darkness. Light like those people unknowingly displayed in my life. Light that we can all choose to see, support, and be ourselves. Strengthen this light and the darkness will fade. And thank you Baltimore, for putting a little bit of that light into my life as an awestruck boy at a fudge factory.
If you appreciated the spirit of this post, feel free to share it yourself! I would love to see these words stand out as a positive note in the midst of all the negative media we consume.