By Eddie Griffin
Monday, August 16, 2010
As I sit on a park bench, hedged about, I am unperturbed by the bees and wasps that came to gather nectar among the bushes. I meditate, remembering Sunday with my 10-year old grandson. He has recently attempted suicide, on several occasions. It makes me pondered why a child is so miserable that he would attempt to take his own life at such a tender age.
Maybe I already know.
He, and his two sisters, were taken away from their mother by the courts and given to their father, my son, who already has three kids, two of which are stepsons, ages 7 and 9. The baby girl is one. Altogether, there are now eight of them living in a two-bedroom apartment, and it is hard to find larger accommodations on a single low-income budget. Grandpa’s fixed income covers some of the gaps, but not the whole.
I sense that there is something void in his life.
This Sunday, he just wanted to hang out with Grandpa all day. He wanted to get out of the crowded apartment. He wanted some individual attention, which was hard to do when he was the oldest among the six kids in the house. But hanging out with Grandpa was not all fun and games, as he would discover.
But where would I take a troubled child after church, on a hot Sunday afternoon in August? There is one place.
We first visited the Huguley Nursing Home, where he heard Grandpa delivered a sermon to a group of elderly seniors, who suffer various ailments of aging. They are usually heavily medicated and deeply depressed. And when I did not see Glenn, our resident centenarian, I was concerned, as always, whenever a regular church attendant in the nursing home suddenly disappears. But one by one, they trickled in, including Glenn, peddling his wheelchair with his feet.
My grandson had been here before, singing Christmas carols and passing out gifts. But this was a different mission. This was about a spiritual transformation.
As I preached, the audience faces came to light and a gleam returned to their eyes. But my grandson had dosed off and slumped over in his seat. All the more, I felt unworthy as a preacher, not being able to keep my own child awake. And, here I was an overworked teacher and mentor, stretched between the extremes of this generation, with a 10-year old on one hand and a 100-year old centenarian on the other.
Afterwards, we visited the Michael Jacobs Jr. National Memorial, named in honor of a mentally challenged young man who was tasered to death by a Fort Worth police officer. I was compelled to be here because here were some of the young men whom I had mentored over the years: men like SCLC President Kyev Tatum and Success Movement motivational speaker and author Junichi Lockett.
My hopes would be to someday entrust my male children and grandchildren into the hands of honorable men like these.
At the same time, we fellowshipped with members of the Nation of Islam, New Black Panther Party, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, LULAC, Rainbow P.U.S.H. Coalition, and other community groups who came together to form a coalition and fight to save the Michael Jacobs, Jr. Memorial. These, too, I could rest assured would have my grandson’s wellbeing at heart, for the simply fact that he was a young black man, imperiled by a cruel and dangerous society.
In the end, my grandson took pictures of the Memorial field with its erected 465 crosses, each representing a taser death victim. Then, it was time to go back to church for evening service. At last, he was tired, sleepy, and totally exhausted from the 100-degree heat.
It reminded me of the days I shared with my own grandfather, a preacher in the dusty backwoods of East Texas in the 1950s.
Back to the old man’s morning bench with the bees and the wasps swarming about, I feel like a beekeeper with the ability to summon the bees upon my fingers and hold them in my hand. It is a paradox that a man can be so at peace with nature and yet so at war with the world?