Saturday, May 1, 2010

Sonny, in memorium

Sorry for a heavy note in the beautiful spring. I remembered this story as I read a freshman’s essay about a meaningful family reunion complete with a brief scare (and there was reason to be scared) when the police drove by.

Sonny was a beautiful boy. In my days in the intercity commune, before my life plans were side-swiped and found me taking a surprising detour into graduate school, I loved living across the street from the 16-year-old and his mother Ms. Carol.

He was a beautiful boy, transitioning into a beautiful young man. He was charming, polite, and welcoming to the white stranger who moved in across the street from him, and I tried to imagine what he was like among his peers. I was sure the girls at school must have loved him: his well-carved form, his gentle voice, his bright eyes, his energy and charm.

It was beautiful to see him playing basketball with the little kids on our block, giving the little African boy rides on the handlebars of his bike on a Saturday afternoon. It was almost more likely for to see him surrounded by children than by teenagers his age. They all loved him.

It was beautiful to hear the brightness in his voice when I passed him on the street corner and he sang his cheerful hello to me, even if it was at night and he was with his friends engaging in questionable activity. I loved him.

It was beautiful to feel the love of Ms. Carol for him depicted in her motherly worry, her sighs when I asked how Sonny was doing, her shaking head and distant looks. She loved him.
“Did you see those police cars driving through the block?” Ms. Carol asked me one afternoon when I came home from work. She was standing in the middle of the intersection so that she could see down four blocks.

“No, what’s going on?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but I’m telling everyone I see to get in the house. Have you seen Sonny?”

“No, but I’ll keep my eye out for him.”

“Please do. I’m staying right out here until I bring him inside!”
A year after I moved out of the neighborhood, I returned from my first summer studying in Latin in Ireland to discover that Sonny had ended up in jail. The charge was severe, the young man was entirely guilty, and I am almost sure that by the time he leaves prison well into his adult years the brightness will be gone from his face. I will miss Sonny.

There is a twistedness to the world: it is not the force of evil that has infiltrated our culture and our families, but a rather a warping, a warping that has Ms. Carol warning the neighborhood of the police like an invading enemy that tears children away from loving mothers and dashes their hopes. Who are the bad guys in a story like this? Sonny? Ms. Carol? The police? The absent father, once a boy like Sonny? Somehow we have all become the enemies just as we are all certainly the victims; creation has been twisted in upon itself.

Yet it is still Easter season, and we rejoice in a God who has come into the very twisted places of creation and has begun it again from the inside. The Resurrection has begun, and Christ is the first fruits of the New Creation. Then raise us with you, Brother; resurrect the families of my students, the protection of the police, the love of Ms. Carol, the brightness of Sonny. Our good has been twisted; come revive it!

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