I would go through hell and back for my kids. So I’m not going to let a little bad weather keep me away from the March for Our Lives rally.
That is what I said to myself as I watched the weather go from cold rain to snow to sleet to freezing rain in the hours leading up to the March for Our Lives rally in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.
I knew how much work the teens and volunteers had put into this event. It was important for me as a mom, a clergy person, and a citizen, to be there for this satellite event coinciding with the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. I wanted to witness this. I wanted to be in solidarity and support those fighting to end gun violence.
But I was apprehensive.
Two weeks earlier when I attended the National Walk-out at my daughter’s high school, I witnessed a group of hostile pro-gun students disrupt the event their peers had put together. I had read similar stories of counter-protesters at other schools. So I was worried that this March would be plagued by groups of gun-worshiping 2nd Amendment zealots intent on mischief and perhaps even violence.
I kept an eye out for them as the crowds gathered at the Courthouse.
A sea of umbrellas undulated as icy, wet wind gusts whipped along the streets. At 4:00, the speakers began. Students read poems and gave speeches. One girl sang her version of “We Are the World” in a plaintive voice:
We are the world. We are the children.
We are the ones to make a better day, so let’s start giving.
It’s a choice we’re making. We’re saving our own lives.
It’s true, we make a better day, just you and me.
The poignancy of these words beautifully captured what these young people are doing, what is at stake for them.
Other speakers came to the microphone. Many called for legislators to listen and respond with common sense gun legislation or expect to be voted out. The crowd responded to all the speakers and singers with enthusiasm, loud cheers, and chants.
“Not. One. More!”
I estimated the crowd to be in the hundreds. Some reported closer to 1000. But I was wishing the weather was better so that there could have been a bigger turn-out.
Finally, we marched through the slushy streets. Our fingers were numb from holding signs, our gloves soaked through. But still we chanted: “Hey, hey NRA, you can’t take our kids away!”
What I didn’t see this time were any pro-gun counter-protesters.
They might have been lurking at the edges of the crowd and I just didn’t see them. But as far as I know, no one chanted NRA-sponsored slogans to disrupt the speakers. No signs were lifted touting the idolatry of gun-worship.
Where were they?
They were likely at home in the comfort of their living rooms, laptops warming their legs as they tweeted disparaging remarks about the children and teens who are courageously leading this movement.
Because only those who truly had something worthy to stand for would have braved this nasty weather to be present for this event.
Only those with dedication and commitment to the right cause will stand with determination in icy rain and wincing wind. The people I witnessed at the March for Our Lives in Lexington are not fair-weather activists.* These were people who are in it for the long haul. They know their cause is just, and will not stand down when faced with adversity.
I watched family members who have lost loved ones to guns stand on the stage and say the names of the ones whose lives were ended by bullets. Those were the stories we heard.
I did not see NRA-activists stand and say the names of the guns they love with such fierce devotion.
Had the weather been warm and sunny, I have no doubt they would have been out in full force. Had it been convenient and comfortable for them, as it had been for the disruptive students I saw at the high school walk-out two weeks ago, they probably would have shown their faces. And I would not have been surprised if they had tried to shout down the speakers, heckle the marchers, and perhaps even provoke hostilities.
But this nasty, icy, slushy mess of a day kept them away.
The wind-driven sleet and freezing rain separated the wheat from the chaff. Only those most dedicated, those who are pure of heart and determined of will decide that they must endure difficult conditions in order to do what is right.
As Joe Madison, teaches us – the difference between a MOMENT and a MOVEMENT is SACRIFICE.
When I see students come out in bone-numbing freezing rain and skin-pelting sleet to stand for nearly an hour to listen to their peers give speeches, I know this is more than just a moment. When I see parents and grandparents, community leaders and clergy, and concerned citizens from all walks of life endure the elements – rain soaking through their clothes, wind whipping at their faces, sleet slicking their shoes – I know we are in the midst of more than just a MOMENT. This is a MOVEMENT.
So today, I ended up giving thanks for the wind and icy, snowy, sleety rain.
While it froze our fingers and chilled our bodies, I believe it created a kind of protective shield around us, keeping away those who would have disrupted and detracted from the event.
Sometimes what seems like a curse can turn out to be a blessing in disguise. For the marchers in Lexington, a foul weather day may have been just what we needed.
* To be clear – I am not shaming anyone who was not able to join the March because road conditions were not safe in their area. By 3:00, the roads were wet and slushy, but not icy where I was. The ones who stayed away for safety reasons were with us in spirit.
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).