It seems that every time our country starts to boil over, we summon the ghost of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr to remind us:
With all the respect that is due to the man who said this, I think this quote is getting a rubber stamp feel to it, kind of like “sending thoughts and prayers.” It’s a quick way of dispensing with the flayed feelings we face after ANOTHER “nothing can be worse than this” moment.
When we keened after the Charleston Nine were murdered at prayer meeting by a twisted little white boy who wanted to start a race war….darkness cannot drive out darkness.
When we howled in anguish after five police officers were ambushed in Dallas by a madman with a rifle while they were protecting the protestors at a peaceful demonstration against police brutality…only light can do that.
When we woke to wail at the news that a homegrown hater had slaughtered 49 dancing queens and kings at The Pulse in Orlando…hate cannot drive out hate.
When we watch another traffic stop turn into another bodycam video turn into another hashtag and the rage begins to boil so that fists fly into the air and some take a knee and we cry #BlackLivesMatter only to hear #AllLivesMatter in a weary call and response, we ask the question, “How much longer until we are all safe and free?”…only love can do that.
OK. Love can do that.
But what does love carry in its hands?
What tools does love need to tackle this responsibility we have lain at its feet? “Oh, that? Love will handle that. Love takes care of the dirty work. Love’s got it. We can wait. Go on, Love. You’re strong, Love. You can do it, Love. Let us know when you’re finished, Love. We’ll be over here, out of the way…just waiting on you, Love. Let us know if there’s anything you need, Love!”
Love carries sandwiches to the hungry and water to the parched. Love carries a slender book of poems for the heartsick. Love carries a bucket and sponge when it shows up to clean that bathroom. Love carries a scalpel. Love carries a crochet hook that makes something warm to shield your shoulders from shivers. Love carries a clipboard from door to door to door. Love makes a casserole. Love will hold that baby while you take a nap. Love hands five dollars out the car window to the man with the sign. Love picks the daisies. Love picks up a pen. Love matches the socks and folds them together into a ball. Love turns the dirt and trains the vines along the fence. Love carries a lantern.
Yes, I know Dr. King was right when he said “Only love can do that.” But love can’t do anything with empty hands.