The 'George House'
Updated: Feb 13, 2021
Recently, our daughter Phoebe asked if I could drive past the ‘George House’ on the way to and from her preschool.
I had to think about that for a minute— what is the ‘George House?’
But then, I had an inkling of what she meant and veered about four-blocks off our usual route, not yet realizing that I’d run this little detour over and over in my mind for weeks. Not yet knowing what my toddler was about to teach her 41-year-old mother about love.
The kind of love that brings you to Zenith Avenue, where a house under construction is rising each day. Just to the right of the remodel, a neighbor placed a George Floyd sign out front.
I guessed, and drove down that street, and sure enough, “GEORGE!” she exclaimed. “IT’S GEORGE!” In Phoebe’s four-year-old mind, George Floyd is celebrity and a friend.
We live in Southwest Minneapolis where it is not unusual to drive past multiple George Floyd murals and signs several times a day. His face is in paint and plywood, from sidewalks to boarded up storefronts and on flyers withering on poles.
George Floyd flashes across the TV with regularity too. My heart sinks when she again shouts, “GEORGE!” with the same loving exuberance as another familiar face.
(Doc! Elmo!... George!)
This is not in the parenting handbook.
the weeks following George Floyd’s murder, we took our kids to his memorial at 38th and Chicago.
We happened to be there the day the now iconic ‘Raised Fist’ sculpture was erected into the middle of the intersection outside Cup Foods. We stood on the fault line. On the same pavement where Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck, killing him over a nine-minute-stretch. On the same ground where he called out for his Mama, one of his final words.
I remember how humid it was. I remember the thrum of music from speakers. The sizzle of grills from food stands. The low voices as crowds took turns walking towards his mural, placing flowers and notes.
The air was so heavy, it settled on my shoulders. My son scanned the crowd, and then raised his fist like the others as the sculpture passed by.
That was nine months ago.
So, on the way home from preschool that day, I asked Phoebe, “Why did you want to drive past the George House?”
“Because I love him so much,” she said softly from her car seat. “Because I want him to be alive.”
“Me too,” I told her with blurry eyes. “Me too.”
The purity of Phoebe’s matter-of-fact statement just struck me differently. Because…love.
I’ve been thinking deeply about love this year during the pandemic. Lonely love. Content love. Brave love. The kind that pierces through our four walls and Zoom calls and our own realities, and helps us tell the people that are important to us…
I love you.
We are about to celebrate a holiday dedicated to love. I adore a Valentine-roses-card sort of love too, but what about the kind of love a four-year-old intuitively understands?
A love with justice. A love with kindness. Love as an action.
How do I bottle up this action-love and harness it? My dear friend Amy recently gave a sermon about this sort of radical love, this agape love, that is pure and transformative—unconditional.
“We’ve BEEN loved,” Amy wrote. “Let’s BE LOVE.”
How far out of the way can we go to show love and be love? Maybe a few blocks, or in a way that knows no bounds?
Standing with others. Taking the detour. Smiling at a familiar face.
We can love from afar, or we can love even farther. That’s how a different drive to preschool from a four-year-old’s vantage point reminded me what’s possible if we let love lead the way, even when we do not walk the same ground and breathe the same air and drive the same streets.
With love, always love,