Last September my children, a neighbor and I were outside in the front yard when we heard shots fired half a block away. We have always felt very safe in our neighborhood, so at first we didnʼt know what had happened. Minutes later, police cars careened down our street and parked at the corner, where they remained until long into the night. We later found out it was a gang-related drive-by; neither of the parties involved were from our neighborhood, no one was hurt, and everyone was caught.
My son, Oliver, was traumatized. He didn’t want to play outside for fear of those people coming back to our street. He fretted about how close he and his friend had been when it happened and what if they had been playing down the street at another friendʼs house. He became afraid of the dark because of what he couldn’t see in it. He was afraid to close his eyes because every time he did he was haunted by the sounds of gunshots. At bedtime each night, he begged me to stay with him and talk. He asked questions, late into the night, about who would do something like this and why. I didn’t know what to do or how to help him, other than to reiterate that we were safe. I would lie in his bed holding him and praying that he would feel safe and be able to sleep. I mourned this small loss of my sonʼs innocence and thought of the children who live in places where these events are a regular occurrence.
After a couple of nights of Oliver not being able to fall asleep until late and waking repeatedly with nightmares, we were both exhausted. I wrote to the prayer chain and asked for others to pray for a sense of calm and safety for him and, most of all, for sleep.
That night, right after an early dinner, I believe the Light came to us. What we felt, however, was heavy darkness. It seemed as though all the prayers of our community met over the roof of our house, wove together and then descended upon us, enveloping us like a thick, weighty blanket, the kind that makes you feel warm and cozy. My body felt leaden and drowsy. Oliver looked at me and told me his body felt heavy and tired and wanted to go to bed right then.
He slept 13 hours that night and awoke the next day saying he felt light again and not scared anymore.