There are moments I believe, where everything stops. The birds chip no more, the gentle streaming river ceases to stream, and the busy overcrowded streets that usually echo noises far into the horizon, become as still as a day out in the graveyard. And if one was to mistakenly drop a few pins on such moments of stillness, one would easily find their whereabouts.
Silence overpowers all.
Mama said, “happiness and sadness have a way of stopping everything.” I wondered then what she meant. As if seeing the puzzled look on my face, she pulled me closer, sat me right next to her on her favorite blue cottage chair holding me so tight that I could literally feel her heartbeat against mine, as she whispered these words to me, “They have a way of breaking the silence in a room, and ushering in a wave of loud laughters and wide smiles and at times my child, at times this wave in all it’s fury comes rushing in a flood of tears like you have never seen before.” And as mama’s whispers came to an end, her tight grip loosened as she wiped off tears streaming down her face, and reached for her sweet tea which she always drunk as she watched the sunset from the living room porch.
Papa was just returning back home from a week of being gone. I had prayed all week for favor for Papa who was heading into town to see the Sheriff for some help for our neighbor Elijah and his family who were colored folks that kept losing a piece of their land every month, to some greedy land grabbers who had no business stealing from colored folks. As he stepped down from his carriage, you could see sweat dripping all over his rugged once blue shirt. Seems to me Papa’s trip was more like a hunting trip as he came back all rugged, and filthy as can be. He waved for help, and mama sent me down. Papa always returned back from town with some sweets and cotton candy for mama who was the worlds biggest sweet tooth. This time however, as I reached into his carriage, I was surprised to find a group of colored folks, trembling and one child with her forehead bleeding on her mama’s lap. I had never met these colored folks before, and wondered what on earth had happened for Papa to bring these folks our way.
Mama rushed in the kitchen and brought with her a sponge, some warm water and antiseptic to wipe out the blood on this poor child’s forehead. Mama was a mid-wife and knew a thing or two about medicine, which helped the poor girl feel alot better after mama gave her some pain medication to slow down the swelling on her forehead. Papa on the other hand headed down to the stables to feed the horses, and wipe down his carriage which was now drenched in blood and sweat. He looked distraught and said very little concerning the colored folks he had brought home.
“Papa, what happened and who are they?,” I finally said. I knew he didn’t want to talk about it then, but my curiosity got the better of me and I finally spoke out. When Papa finished, he called for mama and told her everything he had told me. How these poor colored folks were running away from a man who had held them hostage for three years, working them like pigs in some overheated factory making shirts and pants which he sold to many rich folks others living outside of the country. They had tried to run away before, and were caught and beaten up losing one of their sons in the process. This time however, they had made better their plans and managed to get far far away from Mr. Bird who was this awful man that had kept them hostage all these years. Papa was on his way back home, when they stopped him for some food and help for their daughter who had fallen and injured her head as they escaped Mr. Bird’s compound.
I let go of my bedroom that night for our guests. They said very little, but smilled whenever we gave them food, a place to bath, fresh clothes to wear and a place to sleep. Papa had the fire going, while mama reached for her bible. I still could not get what mama had spoken about earlier in the day out of my head. That happiness and sadness have a way of stopping everything. And as I listened to papa tell the story all over again, I realized that at that very moment in time, our world was filled with sadness, and in many many ways our world had stopped as we digested the cruelty that had befallen this poor family.
Once again, mama’s wisdom surpassed any knowledge that I could ever come up with. She had taught me just how the world stops through happiness and sadness, and just how far we still are from truly loving one another like the Lord has loved us. That colored folks and white folks are all one even though we might not look like one, and that if we are ever to find the oneness in us, we are to look past our colors and look instead within.