Last night after I tucked Louise in, I was surprised to find Field's bed empty. I called for him, but got no response. I headed towards the stairs, thinking he must have slipped down for a sip of water. Then my eyes fell to the pillow fort in the middle of the playroom, a dim light shining through the makeshift tent. They'd given me a tour the day before- it was stocked with the essentials- paper and pencils to write their own stories and a carefully curated "To Be Read" stack.
I pulled back the down comforter and there he was, peering over the top of his book with a mischievous smirk, flashlight in hand. He quickly reported "I'm reading about Gandhi!" to make up for hiding at bedtime- as if my response would be anything other than a melted heart over his tender one. Bless the boys who's rebellious streaks lead them into sneaky, secret reading spots.
He went on to tell me that Martin Luther King, Jr. was inspired by Gandhi and learned to practice Satyagraha from reading about him. I had to laugh a little. Satyagraha? He was going to have to explain that one to mom. He read the paragraph aloud: "Satyagraha means 'truth force', and using it means never allowing violence and only speaking the truth. According to Gandhi, nonviolence isn't being afraid to fight, it's just a different type of fighting. It's fighting with the heart and mind. It's fighting by refusing to hide, run, or attack with weapons." ( Stories for Boys Who Dare to Be Different by Ben Brooks)
It was almost eerie to listen to the words he read with the night's headlines still scrolling through my mind: “FBI warns of more violent attacks in all 50 states on Inauguration Day”...images of last weeks violence still fresh. Raw.
I paused the mental news reel, desperate to soak up the magnitude of this moment. How mighty he was becoming within the safety of his feather-soft fortress...flashlight guiding him towards the enlightenment that rested right in the palm of his uncalloused hands...teaching himself what it means to be truly courageous...To fight with one's heart and mind using the most brute force any of us have access to- truth.
The scene offered a glimmer of hope amidst this unrelenting darkness- a reason to allow myself to see a way out.
How might the headlines read in a country lead by more boys who understand the type of courage Dr. King and Gandhi embodied? Boys with the ability to see through cowardice and combative causes born of lies? What would it look like to live in a world where wisdom, not weapons, wage war in the age old battles of righteousness? Where true peace is possible not because we've moved forward in denial, but because we have progressed through honest understanding, acknowledgment and compassion.
It feels too far away to believe in, but maybe it's closer than we think. Maybe the spark of light we so desperately need shines right in front of us, bundled beneath blanketed walls of protection against the falsities of manhood... and maybe the great work of the modern mother is to fan the flames ignited by bold books within brave boys we haven’t yet let the world grab hold of.
As the old burns itself to the ground, may it give way to the brilliant young truth force that will undoubtedly emerge when the perils of today become ashes of the past.
“The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?” Rev. Dr. MLK, Jr.