I am sitting in Kerry Park looking at the Seattle skyline when a woman with a canvas bag reading “Atlanta is for Dreamers” passes by me. I turn my gaze from the skyline I have called home for 15 years and stare.
Really? Atlanta, for dreamers?
Since our recent move to the East Coast, I have driven through Atlanta more often aware of popular attractions such as the MLK museum, the World of Coca-Cola, and Underground Atlanta. The city has a really cool mayor doing more for black-owned businesses…but I don’t know if I would describe the city as one for dreamers?
Our family of five has been traveling from the West to the East Coast, and after traveling for many hours, we eventually fly into Atlanta. Upon our arrival, the day goes as expected with three kids. The weariness sets in as our crew makes its way with two bags per person onto the Marta train station outside the Atlanta airport.
When the doors open, we rush our children in and shuffle our belongings and bodies onto the mustard yellow, water slide-looking bucket seats. I immediately notice we are the only white people on the train. The feeling of diversity feels welcoming in so many ways, a gift the Pacific Northwest does not often offer.
The raised voices boom when the doors slide shut. Two women ten rows from us are screaming at each other using only foul language. A man steps in between them, attempting to calm the situation, but my children’s eyes are glued to the scene. There are a few other businessmen who keep their earbuds in as if they don’t hear a thing going on around them.
In the seat next to us, an unkempt, unhoused elderly gentleman smiles at my kids, his gray beard and twinkling eyes giving the hint of a knowing or, possibly, insanity. On the floor, near his sandaled feet is a zip-lock bag with pink scrubs. This, paired with his two taped cotton ball bandages, indicate he has recently been released from the hospital.
He has been talking the entire time we have been on the train, proselytizing about good and evil and how prayer is greater than any gun on earth. When the women begin screaming f-words, he yells, “Peace.” The entire experience is captivating in the least; my children’s faces are searching to know whether this man is a prophet or a farce.
Every so often he catches my eyes and smiles knowingly, as if he perceives that we share some similar faith with him. And he begins to sing,
“This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m going to let it shine.”
It doesn’t take long for my kids to join loudly in the song, and our orator is pleased. He begins shaking a plastic water bottle filled with rocks, excited to find a faith language with the children. My husband and I join in with the businessmen who have taken out their earbuds.
For a moment, with all our voices lifted, I feel connection and hope.
I am not sure if the women ever stop screaming, but I can’t hear them anymore. All I can hear is the sound of our voices in unison.
As quickly as the chaos starts, it ends. The train doors slide open, and we all race out. The prophet and I endearingly hold hands for a brief moment and, smilingly, lock eyes.
As we walk up the steps, my seven-year-old daughter process her feelings aloud. “I didn’t know that guy was even speaking English until he started singing ‘This little light of mine.’ Her eyes look up at mine, shining with that same similar twinkle. “I know He knows God cause he had a cross around his neck and he kept saying prayers, and Dad kept saying, ‘Amen.’ So, I started saying amen, but then when we sang together, I really knew.”
Atlanta seems to be a city where people lift their voices in hopes of being heard. And it became clear to me—I finally understood that Atlanta is for those who dream.
May we lift our voices and dream aloud.
Christy Bauman, Ph.D., MDFT, & LMHC is committed to helping women come into their true voices. She offers meaning-making and storywork consulting. She is the author and producer of Theology of the Womb, A Brave Lament, Documentary: A Brave Lament, and The Sexually Healthy Woman. She is a psychotherapist, supervisor, and adjunct professor who focuses on the female body, sexuality, and theology. Christy is co-director of the Christian Counseling Center for Sexual Health and Trauma with her husband Andrew. They live in Brevard, North Carolina with their three kids: Wilder, Selah, and River.