This week in Spirit Play we told the story of Passover, which turned out to be about three stories in one. Before the story of celebrating Passover, we started with the story of Exodus. The story was highly condensed, giving mention to Joseph and then explaining that the Hebrew people became hated and then were made slaves. It talked about Moses being saved and growing up angry that his people were treated badly. It briefly told that Moses demanded of Pharaoh that the people be freed and when he finally said yes, how they walked through the water to safety.
The children were excited to talk about this lesson. What are slaves? How did the water move away? Wait, if it’s the desert and there isn’t much water, how is there a river for Moses and a sea to cross? One child wanted to be the basket for Moses, keeping him safe so he could save the people. We had very rich discussion.
After the story the children selected their work. One boy was very eager to work with the story we had just told and he carefully set it out and looked at all the pieces. As I sat near, he looked at me with tiny bricks in his hand and a little bit of chain and asked again, “What is a slave”? How does one explain this to a three year old? I told him that the people had to work very hard to make the bricks and they had to do what Pharaoh said. They could’t stop and take a break unless their boss said it was ok. They couldn’t move away or try a new job. If they didn’t do what they were supposed to, someone hurt them. A slave is someone who has to do what others’ say or they’ll get hurt. I wasn’t happy about my answer. Who can be happy with their answer to such a question? It wasn’t profound or even engaging. My child looked me in the eyes and just asked, “Why? Why would someone do that?” I said, “I don’t know; there was a lot of work to be done and Pharaoh couldn’t do it all himself, so he made other people do the work”. “But why?” came back to me. Finally I just sat there and said, “I don’t know.” And that’s the truth.
Why did people in our own country promote and engage in slavery? Why does that happen between people? Why does it happen even now to immigrant workers and to women being trafficked? I don’t know. Why is it so hard now that formalized slavery is frowned upon to undo the structures of racism and mass incarceration that are its legacy? I don’t know.
Why is only the beginning of the story though. Why is the awareness that things are not right. Why recognizes that there may be another way. Why can be the beginning of coming to truth that we are all valuable and deserve basic dignity and respect. Why can be the insight before we start demanding change. Why can be the seed and the genesis of total transformation, from a life of bondage to a life of freedom. I don’t know the causes of slavery, but at it’s root it has to be a turning away from love and connection. Why do we do that? And I’m back into the mystery. I don’t know.
What I do know is that when I feel that separation or disconnection from Love, when I see it’s effects in the places we are broken, I am moved. I want something different. I ache for freedom and reconciliation for all of us. I yearn for oneness that comes from recognizing love in myself and in everyone. That question of why moves me. It’s an invitation into exploration. It’s an invitation into action. It’s an invitation into wonder. Why moves to how. How can I change this in me? How can I change this between us? How can I change this in the world?