I’m driving back home after a run, noticing the persistent knot of anxiety in my stomach for the 97th time. I find myself thinking about this twenty something stage of life and how, from a billion different angles, people, places, and things are changing rapidly, like the wind, and I feel like a little wishie dandelion in a big field wondering why I’m no longer yellow, hoping I don’t get mistaken for a weed, and also hoping my seeds won’t scatter away at once. But I am not a dandelion, I am a human. Driving in a car. Getting closer to my neighborhood, I say my constant prayer to ask God to keep me safe again just one more time.
Some people are pros at living life, shining their little light in the inner city, just like anywhere else.
I myself am a scared, fearful, constantly awed, diversity-loving, naïve city dweller.
So bear with me.
I’m getting closer to my house, knowing my beloved and ever-patient roommate had left for Christmas break and unless I decided to find a friend to stay with, I’d be spending the night in the hood, alone, with no one else in the house. I started crying, realizing that until moving, I never had placed myself in situations where my safety had crossed my mind. I know. You’re probably sick of hearing me cry or me writing about crying or telling these stories. I’m sorry. As pathetic as it may sound, I was crying. It started raining (of course) and it was dark (fits with the story, right?). I made a right turn to get onto my one way street and noticed two pulled over police cars with their lights on, flashing. Of course. I peered in my rear view to see if I could make out anything going on. Realizing my eyes we no longer on the road, I snapped out of it before I could hit a parked car. ((Turns out that later on that night, I would find out through a neighbor that they were there investigating a double shooting. I’m glad I didn’t know that at the time. ))
I find a spot outside my house, park the car, and step out, sighing, “God, I don’t know how much longer I can do this,” feeling discouraged and in need of direction, trying to ignore my own cynicism and fears that often ensnare me into the Kingdom of Me. I don’t mean to keep arriving there. I start off in the Kingdom of God and suddenly I find myself at a bread and breakfast all-inclusive stay at the Kingdom of Me. I’m done. I want out.
I walk to my doorstep, steady rain falling, and notice cop cars pulling on to my street, sirens blaring. Above are two police helicopters swirling shining spotlights in irregular patterns. One, two, three, four, five police cars. I’m already crying, but now the tears were really coming as I begin to quiver at the thought of what could be going on. This must be bad. This has to be bad. Six, seven, eight, nine. Given the numerous cop cars and an influx of neighbors opening their doors to see what’s going on, I am scared, wondering what on Earth could be happening. I am shaking and cold and have snot spread in every direction on my face (I am not a clean crier). Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen police cars. I want to pray but I don’t have words. Fourteen, fifteen…firetruck.
IS THAT SANTA CLAUS!!!??????
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!” a classic voice shouts from the window, waving to the neighbors.
“Look, Santa,” I hear one of my neighbors call out to her children, urging them to come outside.
Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty one, twenty two and a… MEGAPHONE?
“MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!”” kids shout from the megaphone, hands out the backseat window, waving.
Twenty three, twenty four, twenty five, twenty six, twenty seven, twenty eight, twenty nine mostly smiling police officers, occasionally waving to the crowds on the street.
I am still crying. And shaking. And now smiling and laughing, laughing so hard my stomach feels like it’s doing crunches. Thirty, thirty one, thirty two, thirty three, thirty four, thirty five, thirty six, thirty seven, thirty eight, thirty nine. I am smiling at the heavens, feeling the steady rain meet my face like long-time old friends embracing one another in an airport. The moment is so… holy… so joyful.
Forty, forty one. Yes, I’m still counting. The cars are still coming, sirens flashing, some sounding, some with smiling officers, others looking just about as confused as myself (especially the police officer driving a Harford County police car… something tells me this county cop has never seen something quite like this before either. There’s a first time for everything :))
Fifty. Sixty. Seventy. I kid you not. I believe the final count was 82 (I was having a hard time keeping track because all my soul wanted to do was look up at the sky, and let my tears and my smile sing praises to the Lord because my mouth and brain could not put together a single word.)
Just when you think you can’t take one more evil, one more injustice in this world, when you feel incapable of dealing with one more fear, ask one more “what if,” face one more worry, drone one more repeated prayer over and over again for the same thing, God will do something. He will do something to sustain you, something to embrace you. He will do something comical like send 82 Christmas-parading cop cars onto your street just to make you smile and laugh in a way that only God could do. He will find a way to make it possible for you to retain hope in your heart, and whisper, “keep going. I. Love. You.” I am wet from rain and tears and all I want to do is dance in the rain, dance in the middle of the street with reckless abandon, arms out open, spinning and singing, and hug each and every neighbor outside, renewed with faith, hope, and love.
But I have snot on my face. Perhaps I should shower before thinking of exchanging hugs.
I draw in one more breath of the surprisingly warm winter air and whisper back to God, “I love you too” and head inside.