Lois Mufuka Martin

Essay

Not too long ago I saw a smaller teenager being beaten up by a large teenager. They were surrounded by teenagers. Some looked like they would rather be somewhere else and were upset that it was all disrupting their day. Some enjoyed watching the chaos unfold. The well-dressed kids milled around as if untouchable. And then there were the kids on the edge of the fight circle, the ones you knew were prone to bullying themselves. They were also the nervous kids trying to look indifferent. They winced as they watched each blow, until finally the kid was on the ground covering his head, decidedly to end the fight, and was left alone by the 6-foot bully.

I saw two older men, both sitting on a stoop. They hung their heads low as if in the middle of a “breath prayer.” You know, the kind of prayer that comes out in one long drawn-out breath during a crisis. I imagine the old men prayed “God, please strike these little fools down just long enough to pick them back up and send them on their way - safely!”

I got out of my mommy-van and checked on the boy who was beaten. As the kids saw me walking, they scampered away, slowly. The boy said he was fine. His ego was bruised as was his nose, head and mouth. I went after the big kid. I asked him why he beat up this kid. He said he had picked on his little brother two days ago. The big kid told me to leave him alone because I was not his mother and because I talked funny. I said no, because he and the other kid could have been my children! I followed the kid into the corner store and kept talking to him. The shopkeeper asked if I was trying to get myself killed. I said no, that I was trying to do the right thing.

And then it hit me, my life intersections that led me to this moment. I was an African immigrant kid from a war-torn country. I am now a new American adult who talks funny. I am a wife and a mother. In between the ordinariness of my life, I just try to do the right thing. Not to summon fearlessness, but simply to live my best life.