We marched for peace and unity – about 200 of us – down the street in Mattapan (a Boston neighborhood a short drive from my house), where five people, including a mother and her 2-year-old son, had been gunned down. The news called it a drug deal gone bad.
In front of the memorial for the victims, Reverend Jeffrey Brown, the Unity Walk organizer, led us in prayers affirming our ability as a city to go forward. “Our hearts and minds will not be seized by the spirit of fear ... we declare over this place in spite of the tragedy, life. We declare over this place in spite of what has occurred here even a joy that will day by day grow stronger.”
We were marching to show the neighborhood and the families who lost loved ones that we stood with them in this dark hour. Lots of the neighbors came out; many seemed to appreciate that we were there. We vowed along with the pastor that fear was not going to take over this neighborhood and that violence and death do not have the last word. And finally we refused to get mired in sadness and sorrow, and instead focused on going forward together in unity and peace.
Deciding to join the march was a significant turning point in my own spiritual ministry. I realize it wouldn't be everyone's answer to prayer, but to me at that moment, marching meant that in addition to praying on my own at home, I was going to act on my prayers and connect with others who felt the same love for community that I did. I realized how much I needed to connect with the mission of others – how much I could learn from their examples of unselfishness and courage.
When I’d heard about the killings, I was shocked, upset. So I prayed deeply to God for inspiration, direction. But I didn’t hear anything. I kept praying, but my thoughts were all over the place. I felt besieged by helplessness, futility. I fought with thoughts that said, What can I do about it anyway? I can’t stop drug dealers and drug users. And then I just wanted an inspiring message from God so that I could feel better and get back to focusing on my own life. But all the arguments – whether they were feelings of futility or of just wanting to stay in my own comfort zone – didn’t bring me any peace. So I kept praying.
I heard about the march through an interfaith group I belong to. At first I wasn’t going to march because I wasn’t feeling very inspired.
But then a question came to me. “You care about this situation, don’t you?” Of course I did. Then the voice inside my head said: “Then march; it’s enough that you care. Even if you’re not inspired right now, it is enough to be willing to express your love.” And that’s when everything changed.
I could and would march. It was a small thing, I realized, but I felt God was telling me that love was key and that I needed to act on it. A great weight was lifted from me. And that’s when I felt more connected to God and heard the inspiring messages I’d been yearning to hear.
I thought about the Bible story of Jacob in his dark hour and how a man wrestled “with him until the breaking of the day” (Gen. 32:24). Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, commented on that account: “Jacob was alone, wrestling with error, – struggling with a mortal sense of life, substance, and intelligence as existent in matter with its false pleasures and pains, – when an angel, a message from Truth and Love, appeared to him and smote the sinew, or strength, of his error, till he saw its unreality; and Truth, being thereby understood, gave him spiritual strength in this Peniel of divine Science” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 308).
In my own way I had to struggle with error, with dark thoughts that say we’re all mortals and that life is sad and hopeless. But my angels from God awakened me to see more clearly that each one of us – on every street, in every home – has a good purpose from God because we are created by God. We are the image and likeness of God. And as the Bible says: “God has made us what we are, created in Christ Jesus to do those good deeds which he planned for us to do” (Eph. 2:10, J.B. Phillips translation). When I marched that day, I joyfully defended the right of each one of us – everywhere – to fulfill our God-given mission to be a blessing, to be a light in the world.