My young neighbors, George and Gracie. I love them.
I stepped out my front door into the spring weather with the bite of winter nipping my skin, still hanging on to hope that it will last. George sat shoulder slumped on the concrete wall. He lifted his feet as Pumpkin the ever terrorizing Chihuahua let him know in no uncertain terms what she thought about his morose. As I tugged the yapping pup along beside the tubby pup, George hollered at me, “Mayor? I think I need one of those hugs when you put the dogs back inside.”
I nodded and smiled apologetically as Pumpkin continued her tirade against the world, Piggy chugging along beside her. Duties all done and accounted for, I placed the still overly verbose Pumpkin inside calling for the older canine to come. After a deep breath for some muffling on the shrill bark, I opened my arms and George ran around to accept the hug.
“What pain is on your brain?” I inquired as he broke the hug and dribbled to the ground in his pajama pants.
“We’re going to have to move again.” He explained. “It’ll be cool and all because we’ll have a pond, but I really wish we could stay this time.”
“Why do you have to go?” I asked. “I’m going to really miss you.”
“We can’t pay the rent any more.” He said like it was a litany he’d become accustomed to. It hurt to watch him curl up, knees to chest, tugging his hood over his face.
“What are you doing?” I asked glancing the parking lot to notice a Rent-An-Expensive Couch van pull into the broken parking lot.
“I’m hiding from them.” He said in a hushed tone.
“Why?” I prodded him further. Yes, as an adult, I’m hyper aware of debts, payments, bill collectors, and even rent-expensive-cheap stuff places. I shouldn’t ask because it’s none of my business, but I really like George and Gracie.
“They’re here to take away our couches. My mama said just to let them take the furniture already, but the babysitter won’t do it. We get woke up because they come too early in the morning and we hide so they don’t know we’re there.” He sighed heavily, as if the weight of the world was on his shoulders. “I won’t have a place to sleep if they get in.”
“I’m sorry you’re experiencing that, George. If I could help you, I would. I don’t have any dollars either.” I leaned on my cane and watched the eight-year-old American boy hide his shame.
“Mayor? Can I ask you a question?” He pushed back his hood when the truck started to back out of the parking lot having not retrieved the sofas. I nodded ascent. “What did you mean when you said black lives matter? I’ve never heard a white woman say that before.”
I winced. George has a way of speaking his thoughts and ideas that, quite honestly, I haven’t seen in a child in a very long time. “It means to me that we are all human and should be equal, but we’re not. I protest against those people who want to keep us different because I don’t believe that’s just.”
“People don’t like me.” He confessed. Like a true questioner, I asked, “Why not?”
“Because I’m mixed.” He said pulling his hood back over his face. Then in a voice that is small, nearly broken, very fragile, he shares something so tragic it made me weep. “Sometimes,” He stated ever so softly. “I feel like I’m a mistake. Like I wasn’t meant to be here.” And he covered his face with his hood completely obscuring his beautiful honest face.
I had to breathe deeply because the mixture of anger, sadness, compassion, and longing to ease his suffering were so strong, I got the wellies.
“George, please stand up.” I asked gently. He complied and I took each of his shoulders in my hands and leveled myself with his true green eyes. “I need you to understand something, believe it and feel it deep in your heart, do you understand that?” He nodded so I continued. “You my beautiful perfect human friend are never, no matter what anyone else in this world tells you, are NEVER a mistake. You are a bridge between the two. You are a leader with an extraordinary gift for storytelling. You ARE the future of peace in this world. Do you understand what I mean?” I felt completely intent with my purpose. He looked up at me with such an open comprehension that I felt like I was looking into something way bigger than he or I.
“I understand. But people…” He started to say when I interrupted him.
“People can be nasty, vicious creatures, but so can they be humans who don’t understand the differences. Black lives matter because ALL lives matter. You are so important to me and to your sister and your family. Even if they say hateful words, they always, like me, will love you. Black lives matter, George, because you think I’m better than you because I’m white. I promise you, my beautiful friend, we are equals in spirit. We are equals as physical beings. Just because we have different melanin doesn’t…”
“What’s melanin?” He interrupted me.
“It’s what makes your skin darker than mine and because I have less, I’m more pale than you are.” I explained.
“That’s it? That’s what’s different?” He looked at me incredulously. I nodded my head. “Well that’s just plain stupid.”
“George, my friend, I couldn’t agree with you more. Want a cupcake?”
“After another hug?” He asked, his eyes no longer filled with tears.
“Absolutely. We’ll break bread together.” He grinned back at me as I went and got two applesauce cupcakes topped with green holiday frosting. We sat in the spring sun feeling the icy breeze sharing each others company, heart to heart, spirit to spirit.