The paparazzi camps outside the hospital, around the palace, near the home… clammoring for an image to show the waiting world. Revelers cry and drink and hug strangers. Sometimes, they set things on fire. Across the globe, people troll the newsfeed. They wait for a name, an image, a glimpse of the glowing, new mother princess.
And just like that, a King is born. A son is given. (and the government shall be upon his shoulders and his name shall be called…)
Wait…I’m getting ahead of myself. We don’t know his name yet.
Royal correspondents say “although just hours old, the baby boy is destined to become a future head of the armed forces, supreme governor of the Church of England and head of the Commonwealth, which covers 54 nations across the world…”
Talk about pressure. “Blimey, ma! I just want to go to futball camp!”
Ok, but meanwhile… Meanwhile, a black baby boy is born in America. There are no photographers camped outside the hospital. There is no royal platinum healthcare plan to cover the mother’s medical bill. No entourage waiting to escort them home. No hairdresser to ready the new mother for the upcoming media frenzy. No roaring masses waiting to learn the child’s name, and no flag-waving crowd singing the national anthem.
And yet, this child is also destined to contend with other people’s expectations. His country has its own rules for him to follow, its own role for him to play. They may not care to know his name, but they will shape his future story, all the same.
Maybe this young man grows to attend the most underfunded, overcrowded schools in the country. Maybe he is born into a community where crime is an accepted—if not acceptable—way of life. Maybe his parents love him, teach him right from wrong, take him to church every Sunday…but it is never enough to overcome this large and sweeping story into which he’s been born.
Maybe, one day, this baby puts on a hoodie and buys some candy; maybe this boy is pursued, confronted, and finally gunned down by a man who doesn’t like the looks of him. Maybe then, as hey lays dead…maybe then, the cameras will show up.
And when they do, what story will they tell?
Maybe it’s a stretch. But somebody has to say it out loud.
May God forgive us when the royal son of another country receives more of our attention than the suffering in our own backyard. When the high drama of a kingly birth overshadows the injustice that takes place on our own watch, funded by our own tax dollars, with our own children’s future story hanging in the balance.
What would the world look like… if the children killed by our own backward laws were as important to us as the Kardashian baby?
What would the world look like… if we cared as much for the child born into poverty, sickness, hunger and violence, as we cared for those who have not yet been born?
What would it be like… to shift our energy, our social media space, our strongest words and our greatest resources toward matters of systemic racism, glorified violence, inaccessible healthcare, and failing schools?
So yeah, maybe it’s a stretch. But with my newsfeed full of equal parts Royal Baby and Trayvon Martin, I could not help but make the connection. Both of these boys, so different in so many ways, had this one thing in common: their story was written for them before they were born.
And maybe my noticing that doesn’t do much to change it. But maybe, if a few more of us start to notice that expectations can kill, we can change at least one of these stories for the next kid who’s born into someone else’s plot line.
Care for our neighbor’s child has to start in our actual neighborhood. Not in the newsroom or the courtroom; not in a tabloid when it’s too late, or across the pond when it hasn’t even started yet; not with our own set of rules and roles; but live and in person, in our very midst. This is how Jesus comes to live among us, real and present, the child in our own backyard. He is live and breathing and full of good news, if we’ve got ears to hear it.
He is another young boy with so much of his own story already laid out before him. Is he royalty, or is he the child next door? Has he yet to live into the story we want to tell? Or are we still killing him with our own expectations?