A Heroic Hen in Kalamazoo

Last Sunday I preached about how Jesus incarnates God as a mother hen who places herself between her chicks and the fox, sacrificing her own life to save the lives of her children.

On Saturday evening, just hours before I stepped to the pulpit to deliver this sermon in the safe confines of University Baptist Church in Columbus, Ohio, Tiana Carruthers was living it out at her apartment complex in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Carruthers sensed something was wrong when a stranger pulled up outside Meadows Townhomes and approached some of the children playing there. She immediately began ushering the children away from the area. Then the 25-year-old mother turned to ask the man if he needed help, and he opened fire. She was shot three times in the legs and arms, but is expected to make a full recovery.

Six others will not recover. The gunman, later identified as Jason Dalton, went on to kill an eighteen-year-old and his father at a car dealership and four women in their cars preparing to leave a Cracker Barrel parking lot. An eighth victim, a fourteen-year-old girl who was in one of the cars at the restaurant, is still in critical condition.

If not for Carruthers’s courage, the body count would undoubtedly have been higher. She had been supervising a number of children at the apartment complex’s playground when Dalton showed up, and was in fact holding the hand of a twelve-year-old girl just before he started firing. Accounts vary, with some claiming that she “threw herself in front of” the children, and others giving a less Hollywood-type description of her actions, but the results were the same. As Stephen A Crockett Jr., writing for the web site TheRoot.com, puts it, “No children were injured in that shooting, since Carruthers put herself between the gunman and the kids” (Crockett, “Meet the Hero Mom”).

Image: " Hen and Chicks " by  brittgow  is a Creative Commons image, licensed under  CC-BY 2.0

Image: "Hen and Chicks" by brittgow is a Creative Commons image, licensed under CC-BY 2.0

This is precisely what I was talking about in my sermon, and this is what gives me hope when the world seems darkest. We could dwell on the evil of the situation, wondering what possessed a man with no history of criminal behavior or mental illness to go on a killing spree. We could decry the prevalence of and ease of access to guns in our society—apparently Dalton owned a cache of weapons, all purchased legally. We could bemoan the tired platitude the NRA is sure to hustle out yet again, that the only way to stop a “bad guy” with a gun is with a “good guy” with a gun. We could do some soul-searching about what role we can play as individuals or as a congregation to halt the scourge of gun violence in our nation.

We could do all these things, and in fact we should do all these things. But what I want to do today is to shine a light on a hero who acted as a mother hen and put her own life at risk to save the chicks in her care. Tiana Carruthers is my newest hero. God bless her and all the other mother hens out there who put themselves on the line every day to protect, defend, heal, nurture, and befriend the lives entrusted to them.

Lord, help me to be a mother hen too.