I saw friends get up unreasonably early and drag themselves to the Red Line to be in Fields Corner in plenty of time for the Mother's Day Walk for Peace. Two of them napped on the train - good for them. I saw volunteers managing crowds of people as they checked in, individually and in teams; the morning was damp and rainy. I saw team captains stuffing their envelopes with last-minute donations and double-checking the website to see what the final totals were for their team. I kept trying to count our people there - Beacon Hill Friends Meeting/House, I mean - I believe there were 25. I included the ones volunteering and walking with other groups. And we contributed something in excess of $1,900.
The statistics I keep in my brain tell me that this is an increase of approximately a factor of three in both attendance and fundraising for my faith community compared with the last three years. I hope that this is a trend, not a blip due to Sandy Hook and the Marathon bombing. We need to have long memories that mark every death on our streets as Important. Every Single One.
Scarlett Lewis spoke. Her son Jesse Lewis was the little boy in Newtown, who went toward Adam Lanza, trying to keep his friends from being shot. (http://www.jesselewischooselove.org/)
Tina Chery spoke. Her son was murdered 17 years ago, and she created the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute with the money people were sending her. Louis' killer is on parole; Tina spoke at his parole hearing in favor of his release. She believes in forgiveness and reconciliation - they're not just sound bytes for her. She told us to put our umbrellas away, that those were God's tears falling. People did. People listen to her that way. (http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/about.html)
Pastor Kim Odom spoke. She is with Citizens for Safety. Her son Steven was murdered by gun violence in 2007. She made special mention of their LIPSTICK program, which is dedicated to empowering women to say NO to the men in their lives when they are pressured to make a straw purchase of a gun because that man cannot pass a background check. Citizens for Safety is dedicated to figuring out how the guns are getting into the hands of people who should not have them - children, ex-cons. She reminded us that every time there is a gun death, when we write to a politician or speak with a reporter, we should ask that question and keep asking it until we get answers. I find myself frightened on behalf of these women who do find the courage to say NO - mothers, grandmothers, sisters, daughters. What can we do to keep these women safe when they take a stand? (http://citizensforsafety.org/operation-lipstick/)
Mirna Luz Ramos spoke. Her son, Jorge Fuentes, was murdered on September 10, 2012 (unsolved). She was quiet, hesitant, in pain. It's been less than a year. Someone suggested that perhaps it was cathartic; I hope so. Jorge's killing led directly to the Episcopal Diocese of MA getting serious about preventing violence in our communities. Bishop Tom Shaw established the B*PEACE for Jorge campaign, pouring money, energy, time, and resources into community violence prevention and response. I have been doing this walk for four years, and I saw more white collars in the crowd than ever before. This is good; people who wear white collars have parishioners who have families who are at risk. (http://www.diomass.org/b-peace)
I think a bit of work needs to be done about exactly what 'interfaith' means. My first instinct was to say that this is a small quibble in the larger scheme - I'm sure no harm was meant - rather, it is habit. But it does matter. Invoking prayers in the name of Jesus felt uncomfortable to me, given my non-Christian friends who also braved the early morning and the rain and are just as committed to the cause of nonviolence as the next person. Perhaps I will be able to have some input on that next year - the problem certainly transcends faith traditions.
I saw one sign with two photos of young people - a boy and a girl - same last name - and the dates of their deaths, approximately four years apart.
I saw several signs bearing the words of nine-year-old Martin Richards, who died in the Marathon bombing, and whose sister, who loved to dance, is now an amputee: "Peace. No more hurting people."
I heard a reggae band - I don't know if it's an original song or a cover, but the lyrics were haunting - "Bend like a palm tree".
I waited in line for the port-a-potty with a woman wearing a T-shirt that said, 'I am a Survivor.' I recognized that her shirt meant she had lost someone violently; I did not recognize her as Scarlett Lewis, who I heard at the outset, but didn't really see on stage because I was fussing with our envelope and counting people. Jesse's mother gave me an extra tissue that she pulled from her sleeve because there wasn't any paper in the toilet. It's just as well; I doubt I would have known what to say. Maybe my 'thank you' for the tissue was sufficient to cover it, but somehow I doubt it.