Note: this is a repost, but today I saw a woman who looked vaguely familiar and I only just now placed her as the poem reader.
One time I was driving around the downtown area looking for interesting things to photograph, and an impulse made me turn off my usual path and into a strange neighborhood. As I drove around unfamiliar streets, I saw an interesting looking church steeple a few blocks away, and decided to head over and check it out. I was so focused on trying to find the church that I turned down a side street without noticing how crowded it was with cars and people. As I realized something was going on, I slowed down, then stopped, waiting patiently for the line of cars ahead of me to move. But it didn't happen. Instead, the drivers ahead of me turned off their cars and got out. What the hell? I checked the rear view mirror. There were already three empty cars parked behind me, their drivers joining the growing crowd up ahead. I was blocked in on all four sides. Trapped, apprehensive and curious, I resigned myself to an experience, shut the engine off, and got out of the car. It was a gathering of family, friends and neighbors to honor a 19 year old boy who had been killed in a drive-by shooting. The crowd was somber, a marked contrast to the beautiful June evening. Men of all ages stood stoicly, wearing t-shirts with photos of the victim. Women passed out flowers, hugged new arrivals, held votive candles, cried. Someone read a poem in a voice that shook with emotion, but I was too far away to make out the words. I looked around the crowd as she read, struck by the complete absence of anger. There was none, only a sort of quiet resignation that was more chilling than lust for vengeance would have been. I don't really have much to add to this little vignette except an observation: bad things come out of nowhere, like memorial services on strange streets or bullets from passing cars. Good things don't. They take work, planning, perserverance and a bit of luck. I hope better days are ahead for us if we keep fighting the good fight.