Today’s short story is based off the meditation for the second week of Meditative Fiction. It springs from Matthew 5:5-6
“All lives matter!”
Eleanor turned her head to see where the cry had come from. She scanned the line of cars stopped at the traffic signal, and then caught the gaze of a white woman staring fire back at her. The woman’s window was rolled down and, when she was certain Eleanor had spotted her fury, she shouted again.
“All lives matter!”
Eleanor sighed, and shifted her “Black Lives Matter” sign to face the angry woman.
“God bless you!” She called back.
“Go to hell!” the woman snapped. At that moment the light turned green and she hit the accelerator so hard her wheels squealed as she shot forward. As the woman drove off, she “saluted” Eleanor.
The black woman sighed, some days it just seemed like nothing she did mattered. “Help me Jesus,” she whispered to herself.
An hour passed, vehicles drove by. Some honked in support, others passed with jeers and anger. Several cups were thrown, though Eleanor confessed a moment of satisfaction when one of the cup throwers was pulled over by the police. She prayed it would be a teachable moment for them, and waved to the officers as they got back in their cars. To her surprise one gave a thumbs up before he shut the door and drove off. She was about to return home, feeling her day of witnessing had come to an end, when she heard a familiar voice shouting from across the street.
“All lives matter!”
The fury hadn’t left the woman’s eyes. She stood at the corner opposite Eleanor, holding the hand of a small child. Eleanor figured she must have walked back to have a more satisfactory expulsion of anger than her brief drive-by had afforded. She felt sorry for the small child, who looked rather tired and uncomfortable. Eleanor had no desire to get into a shouting match, so she did her best to offer a disarming smile and waved in greeting. This was not appreciated.
“Don’t you wave at me! I’ve seen you here day after day after day, with that hate speech on your stupid sign. How dare you say your life matters more than mine. Who the hell do you think you are, telling me that!”
Eleanor’s hand dropped, her shoulder’s slumped. “I’m not saying that at all.”
The woman raise her hands to her mouth and screamed, “All lives matter!”
Eleanor wanted to just pack up and go home, but she wanted to make this woman understand. No. She needed to help this woman understand. “Yes, all lives matter, of course! But we need to acknowledge…” She stopped mid-sentence. Unseen by her mother, who was fixated on the object of her hate, the little girl had pulled away and begun crossing the street—against the light. She could just hear her little voice singing, “Playground! Playground!”
Eleanor glanced up the road, and spied a small truck rumbling toward the intersection. Without looking to see if her side of the street was clear, Eleanor dropped her sign and bolted out into traffic. She scooped up the child as the truck’s horn began to scream, followed by its tires screeching as its brakes were activated. She tripped over the curb as she strode toward the safety of the other sidewalk, rolling on to her back so as to save the child from the impact.
“Mommy! Mommy!” the little girl began to cry.
The mother scooped up her daughter and enveloped her in an embrace. “Molly, you know better than that! You could have been killed!”
“She just wanted to play, ma’am. And got a little too fixed on her prize.” Eleanor replied as she sat up. Onlookers were now running toward the corner to check on her condition.
The woman looked down at her child’s savior. “Thank you. I didn’t see, I was just so…”
Eleanor strained to get up off the ground. “I know, ma’am, there’s a lot of ‘just so’ going around. I’m just glad I could get to little Molly before anything happened to that precious child.”
The woman shook her head, all fury washed away by tears. “But, why would you risk yourself like that? I was horrible to you.”
Eleanor paused and looked up at the woman, wondering how to response. Finally, a gentle smile crossed her face as she responded. “Because, ma’am, if I’m gonna say ‘Black Lives Matter’ then I need to make sure I’m living like every life matters.”
“Even people who are terrible to you?”
“Especially them. We can’t heal if all we have is hate.”
“I don’t think I have your strength.”
The woman reached out and embraced Eleanor. “Thank you, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s a start,” Eleanor replied. She felt the woman’s tear mixing with her own.
Molly pointed across the street, “Playground?”