Finding the Words: Flowers From That Garden

I spent some time last week in Montgomery, Alabama–the “cradle of the Civil Rights Movement”–visiting archives, museums, and exhibits. Several days later, I still have few words to explain the mix of strong feelings that have taken residence in my soul. Even though I’ve heard the stories, read the books, seen (some of) the images before, and even taught the material, I need time to process other ways of thinking through the atrocities of our nation’s past.

As I was there listening, reading, watching, taking notes, and snapping photos, I realized how much the past is echoed in our present, how little we have moved away from those heinous acts; in fact, in the two short days that I was studying the horrors of our past, we were creating more devastation. And instead of sitting at the table and finding solutions, we were casting blame and wasting time on foolish distractions.

Beyond the atrocities, I found my heart breaking at the impossibility of the thing we must conquer to actually make progress. We can march for civil and human rights, but our marches cannot change the thing that makes these protests necessary–the hate and fear that dwell in people’s hearts.

Is it possible?

Is it possible to undo the social conditioning that begins at the dinner table? The disdain for others that is cultivated via television and social media? The thing in (some of us) that convinces us that murdering “those” people and separating “those” children from their parents are justifiable?

One of the meaningful experiences I had while in Montgomery was visiting the church and home of Martin Luther King, Jr. (more on that later). Outside the home there is a peaceful garden–The King-Johns Garden for Reflection, commemorating the  work of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church’s renown pastors.  In the moment I was there, I grasped the possibilities of the principles Rev. Vernon Johns and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced: Equality. Forgiveness. Hope. Peace. Understanding. Unity.

DeLinda contemplating forgiveness…

A plaque at the entrance to the garden reads [in part]:

In the serenity of this garden, you are invited to reflect upon six timeless themes about which Rev. Johns and Dr. King often preached, lectured, and wrote: Equality-Forgiveness-Hope-Peace-Understanding-Unity. We encourage you to ponder each one as it relates to you, your family, and your community. Here, in the shadow of Rev Johns’ and Dr. King’s pastoral home, may you find the personal fulfillment that is often the first step on the long journey to a better world.

Carlette contemplating equality…

The baby girl in the photograph that formed my previous post is my niece Tiffany’s daughter. I’m trying to hope that by the time she grows up, the horror story that my nation is wont to tell will have transformed into another type of tale–one of light, acceptance, respect, and freedom for all who cross its borders.

Maybe, if we can get the world to be quiet and still enough to contemplate the King-Johns principles, we can make true progress. Maybe, we can forge a better future, a brighter world for the upcoming generation and the generations that follow.

The flowers in this post are from that garden. They remind me despite all the ugly, beauty can survive.

26 thoughts on “Finding the Words: Flowers From That Garden

  1. Val van der Poel says:

    It is hard to believe, with all the ugliness in the world today, that there will ever be a chance for Equality-Forgiveness-Hope-Peace-Understanding-Unity. It is hard for individuals to feel they can make an impact but we should try to do our best to live up to these ideals.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mali says:

    This is a really wonderful, and thoughtful, post. Though our country doesn’t have the same background that yours does, there are certainly moments in our past and present that make me ashamed or angry. And even though our country now is more inclusive than ever, it is important for all of us to contemplate these things, and hope (and work) for better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chandra Lynn says:

      Thank you. I imagine these challenges of fear and suspicion of those not like us is global. It’s sad, but we can do our part. Right? Contemplate these things, work on ourselves and affect change where we can.


  3. christine brooks says:

    Things have to change. We are in need of moving forward, not backwards. Where is the Love?
    And what about Equality-Forgiveness-Hope-Peace-Understanding-Unity, it is all missing

    Liked by 1 person

  4. K E Garland says:

    That quote is very poignant. Also, you’re right. We cannot legislate people’s hearts. Unfortunately, I’m thinking it’s going to take a lot more people being put in disenfranchising situations to understand why we should show more care and compassion. Otherwise, until something touches all of us, then I don’t think all of us will be concerned.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lona Gynt says:

    We used to live in Prattville, so many important places there. The Rosa Parks museum, the SPLC offices and monument, I can’t believe I have never made it to these gardens – will enjoy taking the opportunity to do so. Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person

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