I am still thinking about the powerful photo of the boy handing out water to police officers in Baltimore. In the midst of the rioting, accusations, and bloodshed, this photo symbolized the goodness that can be found in humanity. The racial tensions prompted most people in that city to spew venom towards various groups. At some level, it is understandable. There is a lot of injustice to go around. Yet, in the midst of the hatred we see a photo of hope.
It is quite striking that the gesture comes from a boy. Possibly he has yet to be jaded by the hatred in the world; therefore, we still find innocence, a gesture of grace. As adults, we are layered with baggage (much of it bad) from years of pain and hurt. Pundits said as much when they described the decades of poverty and oppression in Baltimore. It was eventually going to come to a head. It did. And it does with us. We can stuff pain and hurt for a while but when it is not dealt with it eventually explodes. (Note to self: unresolved hurt never ends well). Thus, it is not surprising that grace comes from a young boy still young enough to see the goodness of life.
I think we need more of this. We need to stop presuming guilt in other people and begin to listen. We need to stop erecting defensive walls and open up our hearts. We need to look at another person and see ourselves in different circumstances. We need to remember that peace is stronger than the sword (or in this case tear gas or molotov cocktails). I don’t see how burning down a CVS or engaging in a rough ride accomplishes anything. I do see how the offer of water does. One divides; the other unites. One fosters bitterness; the other reconciliation.
I tried to find out some facts about this boy. Did he have good parents? What prompted his actions? Clearly, he has had some excellent role models in his life. He learned kindness from someone. It definitely took courage as he would have had no idea the response he would receive. In some respects, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that he chose to be different. Rather than be sucked into a mob mentality of anger, he extended love.
Oh, I think we all need a little more of this. We need love that displays itself in simply ways. Imagine the ripple effect if everyone chose to turn the other cheek. Imagine the goodness that would be nurtured in humanity if we became like this little boy and offered an olive branch in the form of water. What if we smiled instead of scorned the next time we see the person who hurt us.
It reminds me of the words of Christ in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is something beautiful about a child who can inspire others. There is innocence. There is spontaneous kindness. There is immediate forgiveness. There is a trusting faith.
When you hear about the problem of race in America, there is a lot of talk about education. We need to grow up. We need to mature. We need to be enlightened. We need to get together and talk about our differences. Yes, I agree with all of this. Yet, maybe we also need to grow down by becoming more like a young boy full of hope and love.