It was so lovely to be sent survival gifts from our children to help us through the long days of quarantine. One of those packages included a one thousand piece puzzle. It had been years since I had worked on one and I am not sure of the last time my husband tried to put one together but we bravely emptied the box onto the dining room table and started to slowly sort through the mountain of tiny little pieces even though it looked like an insurmountable task. How could we find which pieces fit where? Looking at the jumble of those tiny cardboard shapes made it hard to see the big picture.
A strategy was needed. First, we found all of the edge pieces and created the border. Then we tried to compile each piece by color which was a challenge because most pieces were a mix of several colors and patterns. We were often fooled into certainty that this piece fit there when it did not no matter how many times we tried to push it in. Yet day by day we would find one or two or more pieces until the overall picture began to take shape in front of our eyes. The image of the weathered Adirondack chairs set in the long grasses of an ocean beach at sunset seemed like a wish and a prayer for our retirement and sunset years. It took us 6 weeks before we could triumphantly place that final shape into the puzzle and call it complete.
The puzzle was meant to help us keep our mental facilities from stagnating during 3 months of quarantine but it has become a metaphor for the response of yet another senseless murder of a black person at the hands of those sworn to protect and serve. The past 14 days have seen an unbelievable outcry although we have been at this crossroads before in history, too many times for it to still be happening. The fractures of society and this country are once again shattering people into a thousand tiny pieces. There is so much anger, frustration, and pain over the same fight for people of color that has gone on for hundreds of years now. This on top of the fear and confinement of a global pandemic. Fury with a mask.
Like the pieces of the puzzle, these seemingly random shapes and colors of humanity fit perfectly somewhere in the maze and become part of the whole. This country has always been a beautiful mosaic of skin tones and customs and music and beliefs. I am reminded by the spread on my table that it is sometimes hard to see the grand design when we are struggling with the thousand little pieces and yet we are all part of the larger image. Change is hard and takes time but it is disheartening to see it all go back to the status quo after the signs have been put down.
My husband and I are children of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s. We have seen marches and fights for change that have happened with various degrees of success. It’s not easy to see progress from the streets or to see it in the daily lives of people of color and other marginalized groups. I have so much privilege and I could never understand what it means to feel blatant discrimination although as a woman I have felt its ugly sting. It’s so hard not to feel afraid for people and of people. But I will always be an ally for whatever that might mean. I hope I will always have the bravery and strength to speak out and stand up and use my privilege to help those whose voice is not heard or has been deliberately quashed.
Despite the pandemic, my husband and I donned our masks and took to the streets with a local protest group. We stayed mindful of social distancing, a challenge when I wanted to reach out and hug others. We were struck by how many young people were marching, those of color but those of privilege too. Young parents pulling their young children in wagons, talking about what they were seeing and experiencing. People honking car horns in solidarity as we walked and neighbors leaving their homes to join the march as we passed by. And police. Some told us how disgusted they were by what had happened and asked to walk with us. Police cars guided our march, managing traffic. There is hope that just maybe this time real concrete change will happen, not only with how the justice system responds to people of color but economic equality, access to good jobs, education, health care, and housing. Human rights. Because we are all a tiny piece of this great huge puzzle of humanity and the picture is not whole when there are pieces missing.
Our own puzzle is finished now and we have left it for a few days to enjoy that peaceful image of freedom and hope of life beyond confinement. But outside my home, the country is still marching, thousands showing up in major cities and small towns and across the globe, people demanding that enough is enough. And I hope it finally will be enough. I hope the beautiful mosaic can come together as one big beautiful world that shows us all where we fit perfectly into the puzzle. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr had a dream that is yet to be realized despite the work done by him and countless others. All change starts with a dream. We should all be dreaming of that last piece of the puzzle to complete the big picture. John Lennon wrote that he didn’t care if people called him a dreamer because he knew he wasn’t the only one. He was right.