World history is not a large presence in my wheelhouse.
So, what I know about the Middle East would likely not fill a single, double-spaced page of a legal pad.
The same could be said about the city of Jerusalem and the Western Wall.
Here’s what I do know: The Western Wall is more commonly called the Wailing Wall, and though this ancient limestone wall continues to be a source of some Arab/Israeli conflict, it’s still a sacred space where people of all faiths pray, even leaving folded up prayers-on-paper in the wall’s chinks.
In writer Sue Monk Kidd’s literary treasure, “The Secret Life of Bees,” a similar wall’s been built in the fictional town of Tiburon, South Carolina.
The wall, not nearly as tall as older Jerusalem wall, has been build of river rocks, singlehandedly stacked stone by stone over a 10-year period by May Boatwright.
The calendar girl Boatwright sisters – May, June, August – live in a one shade brighter than Pepto-Bismol pink house. May, whose twin sister April died at age 15 – is emotionally hypersensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
Whenever she learns of any tragedy or any lost souls in the world – nearby or faraway – she writes it down on a scrap of paper and places it in the wall between the spaces in the stones. April Boatwright. Four little girls in Birmingham church bombing. And hundreds more have found a home among the gray rocks.
Even after leaving the paper at her wall, the pain continues to accumulate within her as May constantly questions the chaos and unkindness of the world.
This past week and a bit beyond, I’ve not been able to get May Boatright’s knee-high wall of pain out of my thoughts.
I’m not much for building walls; bridges are better. But I’ve felt such a tremendous weight of sadness, especially lately, and I’ve no clear notion what to do with it all.
So, I’ve thought of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem; May Boatright’s wall in a wondrous work of fiction.
And I’ve wished for a wall for those of us whose sadness is staggering. Plenty of our petitions would be private, from our own personal places of pain.
Many more would be matching: Virginia Beach Municipal Center; Henry Pratt Company in Aurora, Illinois; State College Pennsylvania; SunTrust Bank, Sebring, Florida; Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, Florida; Poway Synagogue, Poway, California; Walmart, Southaven, Mississippi; Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy, California; Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Center, Christchurch, New Zealand; downtown Dayton, Ohio; Walmart, El Paso, Texas.
These are from 2019 alone; still the list is incomplete.
Our wall would be long.
And that, perhaps, is the greatest tragedy of all.