Yesterday I marched. Yesterday I joined with thousands of other women and men in my city and millions across our nation and the world to stand up in solidarity for love, compassion, equality, human decency.
I have never considered myself particularly political. I always vote. I’ve been to a few caucuses over the years. I follow the highlights of politics. Occasionally I’ve written an email. I’ve never marched in a rally before. But then again I’ve never known a time when I’ve felt so scared by the direction that our nation seems to be moving in. Now with two small children that I love more than I knew was possible it feels impossible and almost irresponsible to stop at just filling in a circle, dropping a ballot in the mail and hoping for the best. I was grateful for the march yesterday in part because it began to fill this aching in my heart that there must be more we can do!
In the morning getting ready I was nervous and excited and I will admit that I was scared. I was scared of being in such a large group of people. I was scared that people with different views might resort to violence. I kept dropping things as I was making breakfast. I didn’t really know what to expect. After much deliberation my husband and I decided to leave the kids at home with him and I made plans to meet up with a few girlfriends. My five year old helped me color my sign. It felt like I was getting ready for some kind of strange festival with a serious and important message.
I met up with my friend Amanda and we carpooled to her church. Her congregation was walking together from there downtown to the start of the march. Her minister started us off with a blessing and a prayer that included a few moments of levity (“may the lines at the outhouses be short.”) which was just what I needed. I started to breathe again. Older women were handing out pink pussy cat hats. Camaraderie was building.
As we walked to the start of the march my spirits began to lift. I saw friends in the crowd that I knew and hundreds of people that I knew were friends I hadn’t met yet. We waited for the march to begin. All around us a sea of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, fathers and sons began to build. Thousands upon thousands of people – standing in the heart of it all we had no idea how many. There was laughter and stories and signs. Oh the signs! Some serious, some hilarious but so creative and personal. I wanted to read every one!
And then I felt a little shift in the joyous energy around me. I turned to look around. A young man was inching his way through the crowd. In a sea of pink he stood out not only because of his red and black clothes but because he was wearing a full black face mask that covered his entire face. All of a sudden I felt afraid. All of the fears from early in the morning came flooding back. He stood just a few inches in front of me and I studied him in case I had to tell authorities about him later. I noticed another woman taking a picture of him. He had a backpack on (you can only imagine what went through my head about what might be in it) with the name ROE written on it in black sharpie. The hair at the base of his neck where a little showed under his hat was dyed green. All of my fear heightened senses took these details in. We were packed so close in the middle of thousands. There would be no where to go.
I was scared. I was scared and paralyzed. I was hyper aware of him and I could feel everyone else around me was too. And then a short, beautiful, open-faced grandma stepped out in front of him. She said in a firm but also somehow kind voice “What ya got under the mask son?” He didn’t say anything but he pulled the mask down and looked her square in the eye. She looked back. “Glad to have you here with us today.” She said and reached out and shook his hand. He moved off through the crowd.
And that for me was the greatest moment of an incredible day. A grandma brave and kind. Unafraid to look at what we all feared straight in the eye. To really look and not just in a way that was critical and judgmental but curious and kind. To reach out and shake his hand. And I as a witness was changed in that moment. It was a simple gesture, over in a moment but a powerful example to me of why it was that we all came together that day.
After that we marched! We sang. We chanted. We gave high fives and hugs. That night we uploaded and shared our pictures and our stories. We read articles of other marches across the nation. We stood in awe of what we had done and what it looks like when we come together. We stood in awe of how it feels when we look our fears straight in the eye.
You know what blows me away? My story is just one of millions. I would love to hear yours.
Be happy, be healthy, be well.