On Saturday, Jan. 21, a group of friends and I joined with about 500,000 people to march on Washington, D.C. Together, we marched to support freedom of speech, religion, and press; to welcome the stranger and foreigner; and to stand up for equal rights and treatment for people of color, Muslims, women, immigrants, the disabled, and other oppressed groups.
What I will remember most will not be the speakers, as wonderful as they were, nor the signs, as hilarious and powerful as they were, nor my feet, as tired and sore as they were after 13 hours of work.
What I will remember most, is how a small crowd of people helped us when one of our friends collapsed in the midst of pre-march activities.
When Fatema collapsed into our friend Lauren’s arms, suffering from cramps and faintness, the crowd immediately cleared a space wide enough for Lauren to lay her down. One marcher led the crowd around us in an organized call for a medic as we made Fatema comfortable. They kept the chanting up until two volunteer physicians and an EMT, who was also marching, arrived.
As the EMT attended to Fatema and the physicians supervised, the marchers on the edge of our crowd prevented a ball being bounced around the audience from getting too close to Fatema by either deflecting it with their own hands or making motions to push it away and yelling, “Keep it back!”
While the music, chanting, and cheering continued, the EMT rubbed Fatema’s hands and legs while our friend Denise made her a pillow with her jacket. Another marcher gave up her spare coat so Fatema could use it as a blanket, and yet another offered us a collapsible chair.
When the EMT told us Fatema was experiencing cramps due to dehydration, the people around us gave us their precious peanuts, protein bars, and Propel to nourish and strengthen her, even though they would need it as they marched in the hours ahead.
Lauren even offered her olives, shocking the EMT who couldn’t believe anyone would actually bring olives to a march. They chuckled over this and then fed Fatema the olives, one by one, her head propped up on her jacket-pillow.
But as Fatema lay on the ground and tried to relax, tears still filled her eyes. It’s hard to be the center of attention in a crowd, especially when you’re not feeling well. Through it all, the EMT and Denise continued to stroke her hair and hands. Our crowd continued to make room for her, keep watch for her, and ask those in our group periodically how she was doing.
Finally, Fatema felt well enough to sit and, eventually, stand upright. The EMT helped her to her feet as our crowd cheered. Fatema’s smiling, tear-free, thankful face was radiant as she hugged her EMT angel. Then, to help Fatema keep her newly released muscles relaxed, the EMT led our small crowd through “stretches of solidarity” with Fatema.
I finally got a good look at the EMT as she led us through the stretches, and I saw her sweater, which had two stick figures. One was smiling and holding a line, the other was frowning and missing its stick-back. The caption above them read, “I’ve got your back.”
Before the EMT left, I thanked her for living up to the words on her sweater, and she looked down and looked back up at me, incredulous, saying, “I’d forgotten I was wearing this today!”
She had stayed true to her accidental motto. She had shown love, support, and solidarity to a stranger. She had Fatema’s back. And the crowd did, too.
In the midst of chaos, we became community. We became a new way of life and love in a difficult yet hopeful time.
We became the love we are calling others to give.
And I know that in all of these small acts that wonderful Saturday, we turned the love we’ve been dreaming of into a reality, one we will continue to live into because it’s ingrained in us. All we have to do is let it out through those small acts every day.
We became love by marching, having one another’s backs, and sharing olives.
I am a recent M.Div graduate from Eastern Mennonite Seminary and a blogger at lindsaymdavis.com. I am passionate about social justice, geek culture, theology, and their intersections. I enjoy doing kettlebell workouts while binge-watching Netflix shows, and I look forward to marrying my best friend/partner in crime later this year.