He was slight in body. His eyes darted around the room and then settled on mine. As we locked eyes, my heart seemed to stop for a moment — as if to acknowledge that what I was seeing with my own eyes demanded an end to business as usual — that I stop and take a breath – that I remember this moment.
He was eleven years old.
And he was incarcerated.
I don’t know why he was incarcerated. I don’t know what he did “wrong.” But the fact that he was incarcerated means that he – at eleven years old – is being held accountable for whatever his wrong was determined to be. Truth be told, there will be no real accountability, however, for the adults and the systems that did him wrong long before he did wrong.
We — families, schools, churches, community institutions, child-serving agencies, fraternities, sororities — will just go on, business as usual until we are forced to come face to face with what we have thrown away with our policies of disinvestment, our denial of our “brother-keeping” responsibilities, our incredible toleration of community breakdown: another generation of children.
(and mothers, systems, community, churches, people)
do not provoke your children,
or they may lose heart.”
“God, what an indictment on us: children who have lost heart. We may be bold enough to ask You for forgiveness, because we’ve never seen You. We’ve not had to lock eyes with You — so be in the eyes of our children. Grant that we would be courageous enough to not turn away. Send Your Spirit to arrest us and our practices of provocation. Give us yet another chance to get right with this generation, lest we all barrel down the road of no return. Losing heart is not inevitable. You have promised that there would be “no breaching of the walls, no going into exile and no wailing in the public square.” Yet here we are — with few safe spaces for our children, with a generation exiled into poverty in the midst of such excess, and wailing, wailing, wailing. Though we be, as the psalmist says, like a puff of wind and though our days be like a passing shadow, still You love us and have given us the power to sing a brand new song, to tell a story of hope. You have given us the power to repair the breach. Help us to use the power we already have for the sake of every eleven year old boy who is being held accountable for being an eleven year old boy.” Amen.