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How are we united?

Rev. Ann Burfeind

During the activities of Holy Week I was part of a conversation where the following story was shared:

The person telling the story was out walking in their Rogers Park neighborhood when she saw across the street a young child about 9 or 10 years-old crying. The adult crossed the street calling to the child if they were all right, if they needed help. Another adult with two children with them was near to the crying child and was surprised into action when he saw the woman crossing the street calling out to the crying child. He had been following in close proximity with his own two children. He asked the crying child as well if he needed help but then continued on his way when she arrived at his side.

The story continues with an intervention regarding the “stealing” of a ball. The 9 year-old was in the process of leaving the park in which he had been playing with his football. He explained through his tears that other children had taken it away from him. Our community member involved herself by with sorting out the drama of reclaiming the ball and consulting with the rec department staff regarding whom the ball belonged to. The young child was speaking English with a Nigerian accent and was also being attended to by his 13-year-old brother. It was described as a tense situation and one that required listening to groups of yelling boys about possession of a ball. Being the adult in the situation she listened and attempted to calm them down. The exchange between the crying boy, the other group of children that now had the football and the older brother continued to escalate. The older brother was quite stressed and upset that his brother’s football had been taken away from him a second time, first by the other children and now by an adult. The football was brought inside to see if the rec department staff worker knew to whom the ball belonged. It was in fact Ibrahim’s ball and his brother Mohammed calmed down when she put the football into his hands. The 13-year-old brother thanked her and apologized that he had yelled at her. The two, adult and child, white woman and African immigrant boy, stood together for a moment in a park in the North side of Chicago and were a community. Neither of them were compelled to come together by family or cultural ties. They were united only out of the impulse to seen and heard. 

Now back to the question in the title, “How are we united? What moved me in this story is that the adult that crossed the street to attend to the crying child did so out of his own free will, as of course did the adult who did not attend to the crying child and continued on his way. So, why did one adult help and the other didn’t? My intention is not to pass judgment on the person who did not help, I know very well I have acted many times in a similar way, but there are three words that I feel are connected in the process of uniting. Peace–Will-Unite.  Hearts as Peace, Wills Strengthened leading to the uniting of Humanity. When we go out of our way to help we feel this wholeness with our self and with others. We feel that we are good enough to help and that the other is good enough to be helped. This is an expression of Peace. We also need to DO it. We need to cross the street. We need the will to act. Out of this comes the uniting of Humanity. 

Two days later our community member saw the rec department staff member. He shared with her that when he saw the older brother yelling it was the end of his patience with a teenager that other adults had already given up on. She quickly shared with him the rest of the story that he had not witnessed on that day that the boy apologized for yelling and that he appreciated her helping his little brother.  

And so the story will continue—All of living together in this city. Choosing to see each other or not.