I didn’t know what it meant until today: A City of Love. Like so many of you I woke up with eyes puffy from too many tears and too few hours of sleep.
At 4:37 this morning I woke up and with trembling hands looked to see the awful developments in the news. As the leader of an art museum in the Dallas Arts District I looked for the information our team would need to start this day that will most certainly be in the darkest shadows of our history.
I found the maps illustrating the street closures: a “crime scene” just blocks from our museum. I sent the information about the rail service and I encouraged our team to work from home if necessary. I couldn’t promise them, at 5 this morning, that coming to work was “safe”. We didn’t know what we didn’t know.
I watched the live press conference of our Mayor and Chief of Police standing in heavy, tired bodies, yet standing and leading. Protecting. And Heartbroken. It was not lost on me that neither said the words I wanted them to say: “It’s safe to come back Downtown”. Neither said that.
We considered how we can be mindful and present in the face of madness and fear. As a museum, we are a place of refuge: an oasis of calm and a place to be alone with your thoughts, yet alone with others.
I decided to go into work. And I invited others to join me, if they wished, in our conference room for a time to talk, to share and to be together. And that’s when the love happened: Chapter One of the Love I saw in our City today.
Our Operations Manager had the room ready: A Circle of Red Chairs, The Video Conference line open, microphone installed. Some called in, most joined me in the room. I found myself in a circle of wonderful, amazing beings: beings that I am blessed by in our work and in our living. The stories flowed: colleagues walking to the museum (and then running) from a downtown event last night for the Asian Film Festival and hearing the gunshots in real time. Others trying desperately to get our guest curators to their downtown hotel and then feeling more desperate realizing we delivered them right to the very epicenter of the danger. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. Love poured into these stories. One staffer drove another staffer home last night–for no other reason than he is African American. And they were scared.
We considered how we can be mindful and present in the face of madness and fear. As a museum, we are a place of refuge: an oasis of calm and a place to be alone with your thoughts, yet alone with others. We created something new: something that wasn’t there before today. And I watched the love pouring into these compassionate offerings. We sat in silence together, alone with our thoughts: some meditated, some prayed, I drifted between sadness and gratitude, feeling numb and feeling calm, a lump swelling in my throat and a sense that our world changed this morning and we better do something about it, now.
At noon I walked alone to the City’s Interfaith Prayer Service in Thanks-Giving Square. This is Chapter Two in this Love Story. I walked away from the security of our building, away from my responsibility as a wife and mother and right into City Center with thousands of others: crossing empty streets calmly and quietly. In this square in the middle of Downtown Dallas, there was no distance between us. I stood a few feet away from Senators, Congressmen, City Council Leaders, Our Mayor, and Media from all over the country. In fact I walked in with a reporter from the White House. And the love poured in with each beautiful human: vulnerable but not afraid.
I saw Love walk into our City. And it settled like a blanket of fog in us and over us, each of us consumed by the power of illumined, courageous words and the power of being together. Each speech from diverse faith traditions echoed one word: Love. Each speech was a little miracle, and a very big alleluia. The Imam quoted the Bible. Enemies held hands. The heat, barely noticed, melted my tears. We held hands and cried together. We made a promise to work toward healing. At it’s core, Dallas is a City of Love and today this truth was a bright and hot and real as the sun overhead in our bright Texas sky.
Bishop T.D. Jakes’ prayers inspired us beyond imagination. Let this breathtaking video serve as Chapter Three of this Story of Love:
Chapter Four began back in our offices with a gathering of leaders from Compassionate DFW, Thanks-Giving Square, the Art Therapists of North Texas and Educators from the Crow. Would you believe this meeting was scheduled over a week ago? We didn’t know what we didn’t know. A conversation about how to support Dallas as a Compassionate City turned into the Real Conversation about what it means to put compassion into action now. Love poured into our conference room as new friendships shared a vision for Dallas as a City of Love and Compassion. I cannot imagine having been anywhere else this afternoon than there–in the comfort of new friends, united in a cause for compassion and standing together in the fierce urgency of now. And so the work begins in each of us. Love More. When we walk into the room, into tomorrow and into the next few weeks, love walks with us. For Dallas and for the Fallen Five.