He was nowhere to be found. Toby, our plump, black and white, 10 year old cat, was lost. It’s Thursday, April 13th, and he must’ve slipped out the back door the night before. I was going back-and-forth to tend to the grill and that little sneaky guy got away. I awoke to calls from my wife, Kerrie, in a panic. Searching and searching before she went to work – to no avail. She was an emotional mess.
And now she left for the salon to go work her chemical magic on people’s hair. Don’t get me wrong – I, too, was a bit panicked, but at this point my worry was more about my wife’s emotional well-being and the deep sadness that would ensue if we did not find Toby. My determination to find Toby is riding high.
The Search is On
I go through camera footage from the following night. BOOM! There he is at 1:30am just chillin’ out by the pool lounger like he doesn’t even know he’s an indoor cat. At roughly 4:30am, he walks off to the east side of the house, then never shows up again on camera.
Off I go. I search the backyard again and again. I walk our little culdesac over and over. I get on the Nextdoor platform (which I absolutely dread) and post a brief message and picture about Toby being missing. I do the same on our small community Facebook group. Nothing. Toby is gone.
I jump in my car to expand my search. I don’t think he’s gone far, but I just want to check this off the list. As I creep at a crawl along these neighborhood streets I’m cognizant of the “look”. When I see people working in their yards outside, I’m quick to speak.
“Hello there! You wouldn’t have happened to see a plump, black and white cat around here, would ya?”
Each response was, generally, the same:
“Nope. Good luck.”
Help Is On the Way
All of a sudden, my phone rings. It’s Kerrie. Usually, I’m very excited to answer her calls. When I see her name pop up I get this massive rush of dopamine. But for this specific call I was sad. I knew I didn’t have the news she was looking for and my heart was breaking. I answer the call and, through her tears, she tells me that my mother-in-law, Colleen (aka Mama), is on the way. I’m relieved to have some help. Especially from Mama, as she’s a freakin’ cat whisperer. If he’s anywhere close, she’ll find him.
Soon after I hang up with Kerrie, Colleen calls to let me know she’s on the way. She suggests printing off some flyers that we can post around the neighborhood. When she arrives, off we go, flyers, cat treats, and tape in hand.
We walk. And walk. And walk. This dude is absolutely nowhere to be found. All of a sudden Mama says,
“what if he went to someone’s door and they saw this pretty little cat and just took him inside?”
“Good point”, I thought.
She continues, “how bout you just go knock on some of these doors and just ask people if they’ve seen him. He may be in one of these houses.”
I stop in my tracks and immediately say, “Mama, there ain’t no way I’m (pointing to my chest) going up to knock on any of these doors – especially here in Texas.”
I didn’t have to think about my response. It was instantaneous. A lifetime of lessons learned about how I am to navigate this world. Ever-aware and conscientious that, in many spaces, my very existence is seen as a threat. I’m not knocking on any doors of people I don’t know.
In the end, Toby’s little bad butt was tucked up under our pool lounger cover THE WHOLE TIME. Talk about being super relieved and highly pissed at the same time. But the most important thing – he’s found and I get to deliver that news to Kerrie, who was on the verge of canceling the rest of her day. Disaster averted. Toby once was lost, but now is found! The relief in her voice soothed my soul.
The Cost of Being Lost
Days later, Ralph Yarl, a 16 year-old Black young man, was shot twice (once in the head) for simply knocking on the wrong door in Kansas City, Missouri. He was sent to pick up his siblings at 115th Terrace Street and, mistakenly, showed up at 115th Street. He knocked on the door, no words exchanged, and an 84 year-old White man simply shot him through the door.
Despite suffering these violent wounds, Ralph ran to three different houses for assistance and, finally, aid was given – but not before being asked to lay on the ground with his hands up. Miraculously, Ralph is expected to make a full recovery. But my goodness…no child should have to ever fear ringing a doorbell.
When I heard of this tragedy I was left to grapple with what I said to Mama just days earlier. I didn’t just manufacture some fairytale of something going horribly wrong as I approached someone’s home. I could literally see it playing out. There was not a hint of play in my voice.
What most will never understand is that, while Ralph took the literal bullet, there was a figurative bullet that shot through the hearts of every Black person as they learned of this story. And that bullet doesn’t simply pass through – it leaves fragments of trauma along the way. A daily reminder that your body can be taken, at any point, for simply being lost – for simply existing.
And Then There’s New York
More tragedy strikes days later when 20-year-old Kaylin Gillis was shot and killed because she and her friends were lost. They pulled into a 65-year-old man’s driveway to turn around and were met with armed resistance. The reason for Kaylin’s death was simply being lost. As if the shooting of Ralph was not enough of a gut punch to our societal consciousness, this senseless act highlights a reality we face.
In what world is it okay for our kids to fear being shot at or killed when they pull into a driveway to turn around? As parents and guardians, we must now have that conversation with our children and tell them to never pull into someone’s driveway to turn around – even if they’re lost. Another life was taken in a senseless act. All because these kids were lost.
And Then There’s Texas
We’ve all done it before. We approach, and maybe try to enter, a car that looks similar to either our own or one of our friend’s. But this simply being lost in the moment could cause us serious bodily harm (or even our life), as displayed here in Texas.
Several friends who met in an Elgin H-E-B parking lot had just returned from cheerleading practice. One of the young ladies, Heather Roth, mistakenly opened the car door to a car she thought was hers, only to see a man sitting in the passenger seat.
Quickly, she retreated to her friend’s car. She gets in and rolls down the window to apologize to the man, who’s coming towards their car. They saw he had a gun and tried to speed off and then he just started shooting at them. Heather was grazed by a bullet. Another young lady, Peyton Washington, was shot in the leg and back.
In each of these instances there are such high costs for simply being lost.
I cannot imagine what each of these families are going through right now. And not just those who were killed or injured – in some of these instances there were bystanders that will carry what happened with them forever. I pray that each person impacted by these horrific events receives the care they need to heal. I hope we can start to have some serious discussions about how some of these “stand your ground” laws have not necessarily served to make our communities safer.
When these tragedies happen we’re left with so many questions that often go unresolved. It seems as though we have almost become numb to it. We see it on the news one night, then the next night there’s another one. The sheer volume of these senseless acts has driven some into a dark corner of apathy. They become desensitized and think it’s just the way things go. I refuse to look towards that dreary corner. It stalls progress and leaves our communities more vulnerable.
As a society, we appear to be desperately lost. Hang in there with me – I’m not saying all hope is lost – but we are, indeed, lost.
Decade after decade we’ve been led to believe that our brothers and sisters are not such. People in positions of power and authority understand that there is a time-tested, proven, way of maintaining that power. And that is to pit man against man.
If I can convince you to see someone as less than human, it becomes much easier to subjugate, discriminate, and hate that group.
If I say it enough that “this group of people are coming to take your jobs”, at some point, you start to believe it and hard calluses begin to form in your mind about “them”.
If I scream it loud enough that “LGBTQ+ people are somehow pedophiles who are out to recruit your kids”, at some point, you start to believe it.
Day after day, we’ve been inundated with one simple tactic that has been used throughout the ages – FEAR. And this fear leaves us lost.
Dazed and confused.
Wandering aimlessly across each other’s paths.
Narrowly avoiding disaster most days.
With the capacity to inflict heinous and unspeakable acts against one another on other days.
The Way Back
But there is a way back. And it’s really quite simple.
Interrupt the noise with empathy and compassion.
Choose to see the good in the world.
Reject rhetoric that seeks to sow distrust and divide.
Understand that, oftentimes, the people using these ugly tactics are simply being used. They’re misguided by those who hold power over them.
Remember, as humans we all have an innate desire to belong. It just so happens that need is sometimes filled by nefarious ideologies.
Every time you have the opportunity, extend grace. Even to those who may seem to be totally off-base and too far gone. Especially to those who treat you the worst.
Give them something more beautiful to belong to. Open the door and invite them in. Give them a parking spot in your driveway. Welcome them.
In the end, they’re simply lost. Be the light that guides them back to love and humanity, not the flash from a muzzle that leaves them wounded and in despair.
Jeramea Bailey says
Thank you for your words. Even when and especially when they make me cry or make me angry or scared. We are lost but there is hope when we look for the good and the helpers
Thank you. Definitely a whirlwind of emotions, for sure. Indeed, my friend – always look for the helpers.