Thursday, November 1, 2012

Seeds of violence

I was six years old, and our family was living in a low-cost housing development in central California—a group of duplexes arranged in a circle around a grassy area where the kids played.  I remember that our neighbors included a gang of older boys (they would have been between seven and ten years old).  They looked mean and scary.   I avoided them.
One afternoon I noticed this group of boys huddled in the common yard.  They were looking down at something, laughing and pushing.  I feared they might be tormenting some animal, so I cautiously approached.  One of the boys moved and I discovered that the object there in the middle was my little brother Tommy, who was lying on the ground and crying.  My fear instantly changed to fury, and I grabbed a board that just happened to be nearby and charged the group, yelling and swinging my weapon.
The boys reacted almost as quickly as I had and fled the scene.  I think I hit some of them before they got away, but the battle field cleared in a remarkably short time.  I helped Tommy to his feet and burst into tears myself.  Then we both ran for the safety of our house.  I don’t even remember my mother’s reaction.
I haven’t thought about this for years, but the memory is definitely vivid.  I learned a few things that day.  I learned that even though I was small, skinny and female, I had what it takes to confront obstacles larger and stronger and more numerous than me.  I also learned that violence works.
Obviously this requires deeper reflection.  Thanks to the grace of God, I did not develop the violent side of my nature as I grew up.  I am an active peacemaker today by choice.  But I still need to confront the seeds of violence that are part of my nature. (That’s probably why the memory is so vivid.) They spring up every once in a while, for example, in the presence of injustice.  Unfortunately, this is usually some violation of my own rights, rather than a reaction to the plight of the poor or oppressed.  I feel concern for the latter, but rarely fury.  I’ve learned to control the outward manifestations of my inner violence, but I have to admit its presence. 
I have lots of questions:  Did I do the right thing in rescuing Tommy in that way?  (Something in me likes this memory.)  Are there more sophisticated, “adult” ways that I still attack problems by swinging a big stick?  
Dear Lord, give understanding.  Have mercy. Show me the paths of peace.

1 comment:

  1. Indeed, what do memories like that intend to teach us? I have some, as you can imagine. It's very helpful to read your confession concerning inner violence. It somehow makes it easier to name mine. Thank you. Let's pray for each other.