As I carried our folding chairs, quilts and hummus down the hill into Landreth park’s outdoor amphitheater, multiple colors snagged my attention. Everyone who threw this party had stitched together a tapestry of sheets Technicolor and spray-painted with four red letters: L.O.V.E.
What followed was the outworking of what I mentioned a few weeks ago, people from the other side came together yet again in Joplin to show the world what peace looks like, not the preparation for battle during the absence of war but rather the sharing of joy, grace, compassion and meals in a time when people elsewhere keep choosing to blow one another up. This rally refused to accept the violent grammar of peacetime/wartime. Saturday affirmed that though war continues in this our habitat of violence, we must sow peace. We followed roadsigns onto a third way–not one of passive flight or aggressive violence, but of active love. Someone in Joplin burned down the mosque, but as the speakers announced time and again during Saturday’s rally–whoever committed arson did so against the spirit of Joplin.
Art Feeds showed up, offering boxes of markers and their “I Will _____” sheets of paper for children to color on. My good friends let me watch their two oldest kids for a chunk of the night. “What will you do?” asked the Art Feeds girl.
“For what?” asked the eldest–a little girl.
“What will you to to show love? What’s your picture of love gonna be?”
The little girl grinned. “I’ll draw two smiley faces–a red one and a black one.”
“That’s great! What about you?” the Arts Feed girl asked the younger of the two, a boy.
“BUG! I DRAW BUG! SPIDER!”
I offered various colors to the boy, who in turn figured out how to transform run-of-the-mill markers into devices of splatter paint.
Later we slid down slides next to an Arab boy named Zane. The elder daughter helped paint pictures of “make peace” and “love your neighbor” alongside professionals. In the background, acoustic guitars and marimbas shared a stage, offering a harmony of different musical styles. I reconnected with my friends Mohammed, Ahmed and others as we dished out food from the same pot of curry.
We wrote messages of love, of hope–commitments to take good care of one another–and passed around the tabouli and cheese balls, kepsa and hot tea (with cardamom or mint, of course). In the background, Rick Love spoke on how we must delve deeper into our own traditions in order to unite. Chesterton might have said, “there are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions.” Rick quoted from deep traditions on both sides of the fence to encourage neighbor-love and a listening ear. He discarded pluralistic thought and asked us to journey from our own rich customs and praxis toward unity and love. That’s the way to unity–union in diversity, not uniformity.
One thing Rick misunderstood–he seems to think this is the first time we’ve gotten together, that somehow the mosque tragedy ignited a first chance to meet . I’ve had the privilege of attending and volunteering at multiple goat roasts, Persian New Year parties and hay rides that testify otherwise. We’re constantly learning and growing, asking questions of how to take good care of one another here in this city.
Keep an eye on us, Rick, because in Joplin love is in the house and the house is packed.
pictures embedded directly from Joplin Globe