On Thursday, a 31-year-old woman and a young child were shot in Baltimore, making May the bloodiest month in fifteen years. However, the city’s police have responded by arresting fewer people. The number of people booked has plummeted, now that Freddie Gray’s death — and consequent street riots — have created more scrutiny for the police.
Times of crisis can show us the worst side of humanity — and sometimes, the best. While politicians and pseudo-reverends try to stir up more discontent with their speeches, one lesson from Baltimore is worth learning: everyday Americans who practice common sense are the only hope for the city and this nation. We’ve had several examples:
Toya Graham — determined to teach her son the right way to deal with anger — stole the spotlight from rioters when a news camera caught her reprimanding her son for joining his rioting friends:
He’s just like the other teenagers that doesn’t have the perfect relationship with the police officers in Baltimore City, but you will not be throwing rocks and stones at police officers.
Robert Valentine, a Vietnam veteran, stood alone in the middle of the street between rioters and police to tell the young people to get their act together. He explained to a reporter,
I did 30 years, okay? Came out a Master Sergeant. I’ve seen more than all this. I’ve been through the riots already. This right here is not relevant. They need to have their butts at home, they need to be in their home units with their family, studying and doing something with their life. Not out here protesting about something that’s not really about nothing.
They do not respect this young man’s death. Now a mom and dad have lost a child. That could be them. So I’m very pissed…
I love my country, I love my Charm City, and I’m an American. I’m not black, white, red, yellow, or nothing; I am American.
Even a little boy extended a kind hand to officers standing guard. He was there with a team of volunteers cleaning up the street. Instead of raising an angry fist like so many adults earlier in the day, this boy offered a bottle of water. The moment was captured in a photo that quickly went viral. Bishop M. Cromartie, the pastor who snapped the picture said it shows “that the people who riot are just a handful, that clearly you have, statewide, people who actually care.”
Each of these individuals is teaching the next generation of America the right way to bring about change in society. They set examples of what it means to be a responsible citizen. Their examples may not be as loud and showy as the speechmakers or demonstrators, but their actions speak loudly to those who pay attention.
Toya is determined that her son will grow up to think for himself, not be persuaded by any angry mob that comes along. The little boy in the picture has learned the meaning and power of kindness. Robert has the experience of combat and a fierce loyalty to his country that any young American would benefit from learning. Instead of milling around on a city street, throwing bottles and rocks at law enforcement officers, they would better spend their time sitting at the feet of these Baltimore residents.
These three Americans have risen above the bedlam and shown us true American values: not entitlement, but hard work; not resentment, but gratitude; not hatred, but kindness.
Thank you, Toya, Robert, Bishop Cromartie, and others who are trying to show Baltimore a better way.