I was standing on one side of a fence this evening as dusk set in that divided two trains of purpose. That is the only place I could have been at that moment.
My purpose at that moment could have been as a viewer. My purpose could have been to watch as a fight broke out between an Arab family and a group of young African American kids over a bike. The Arab family accused one of the African American (AA) kids that the bike he was riding was stolen from their front porch. The daughter, with black Arab dress and head covered, about 13, said she even saw the boy steal it. The boy said his mom bought the bike for 20 dollars from some other kid. I stood and saw more people come in to side with one ethnicity or the other. The fight was bringing a lot of attention to the mixed raced basketball court I just had finished a game at. I jumped the fence to change my purpose.
This new purpose, one that I am not familiar with, began with me breaking up the two ethnicities. I tried talking to each side to calm them down. The Arab family paid more attention to my governing skills than the AA kids. Two groups formed with no other distinction besides race; the Arab side and the AA side while a third party, me, the white, came in and tried to make the two sides talk. I mostly felt like neither side wanted to me to govern. It most likely wasn’t because I was white but it was because I wasn’t on a side. I tried to get the stories straight and then pushing began. Only two scenes are worth mentioning of this. One was an 8 year Arab girl with braces and a AA 8 year old girl with beads in her hair holding each other visciosely seeming to pull towards and push away at the same time. Both sides yelling racist comments and hurling threats. The other situation was a young AA kid, maybe 10, pointing his finger like a gun at the Arab mother whos child’s bike was supposedly stolen. The boy was yelling insults and topping the on slot of adult language with “if your daughter gets to the sixth grade, I’ll kill her”.
Finally an older teenage AA boy came in and tried to fix it all by owning the conversation. He looked like he could have punched any of us at any moment. I wasn’t scared of him and me, but if he touched the mother or any of the kids I was going to restrain him from doing so again. But praised be to God that didn’t happen. This boy said if his “cousin” says he bought the bike he bought the bike. While he was saying this the tug of war between the two ethnicities stopped as another older AA boy got on the bike and drove it off. I told the mother that my church would help her buy the bike but to them it wasn’t about the money or about the bike, it was about the respect and the dignity. About standing up in the community. “We can buy another bike” the young girl said in a burst of wisdom. She too new it was more than the bike they were fighting for.
The things i have seen and heard this week, the dichotomy of interaction both positive and negative, both face to face and behind the closed doors of same race conversation, has stretched my plans of purpose. Coming up in a few days there is group of Christians meeting in Heart Plaza, Detroit, to repent as a city. While I pray for and plan to document this gathering of 100,000 Christians (who are encouraged to lay down their faith differences and denominations and repent as a city) words echo in my head of a conversation I witnessed not in Detroit which ended with, “If Obama came to this town we would string him up on that tree over there.”
What is the purpose of 100,000 Christians meeting together, a verbal assassination attempt of a presidential nominee or the fight over the ownership rights of a child’s bike? Why is it that if the simple facts are presented what is wrong comes to mind quicker that what is right. As a Christian no matter what, I believe it is our duty to not judge the purpose of 100,000 people claiming to know Christ or to bridge the ignorance in the Obama sentence with the person whom Christ loves. Our purpose is to love and to encourage and to reflect Christ. When called and spiritually empowered, it is our duty to execute Christ’s authority. With encouragement from Christians on the basketball court and in this authority from Christ and with love the boy was talked to away from all other parties of influence and after a few minutes confessed that he had stolen the bike. He, a boy, a young influential influenced boy did what the “most powerful Christ fearing country” in the world can’t do, won’t do, and took the bike to the Arab families’ house and said he was sorry and hugged the mother.
It is time we become one. I have had to pray through comments from Christians and non Christians alike this week. And it is in my nature not to speak out against what I disagree with. But to contemplate it so that little to no offense is brought out. Whether that works at all or for all or for me will be known with application and reflection. What is for certain is that Christ will come back and the beginning of Detroit’s Christians understanding that we are in this life for the same purpose starts this Saturday 100,000 strong. Lord Willing. And I will be there.