NOTE: This e-mail was shared among friends from my wife Kay’s high school days. When asked how best to introduce her, Kathy replied, “just another person seeking to understand how to respond.”

“It’s so hard to make sense sometimes of all the voices, the messages, that break into a usual day.

“Downtown, I heard the sound of a ragtag bunch of demonstrators on the next block, chanting in one voice, ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’, in solidarity with protesters all around the country. I saw an armored police vehicle, moving quietly, on the next block, seemingly trying to get ahead of where the protesters would be coming next. There was no sound at all coming from the twelve or fifteen police who were mounted around the outside of the vehicle, like so many tin soldiers, with protective gear and plexiglas shields. If they were speaking, it wasn’t for us to hear. On the next block, at least two dozen police on bicycles were making their way up a crowded sidewalk; probably more in total than the group of protesters.

“Somewhat shaken, and wondering, as I often do, whether I belong out there with the marchers, and where is my place in the confusing discussion. What does my own voice need to say? I made my way back home. After all, there was no place to leave my car in our crowded downtown if I wanted to join the marchers. I was not “dressed” for a protest. I said to myself, “a walk in the park is what I need, even though it is getting dark. It’s not raining, and it’s mild and not windy”.

“As I walked up the slope around the corner from our house, I heard chanting again, this time happy voices. I couldn’t quite make out the words at first, but soon I realized it was three girls singing “Come on down to our holiday sale, our holiday sale, our holiday sale”. Of course, that group was much easier for me to join, and there were most certainly no police in sight. The girls had hot cocoa, gingerbread cookies, and origami birds for sale. Conversation was easy. One girl told me she was raising money for ‘cancer’, the next for the ‘pet shelter,’ and the last for ‘homeless’.

“I had to offer a prayer of gratitude for everyone who is working to make this longing world a more just and welcome place.”

Kathy Elliott
Portland, Oregon
December 7, 2014

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