Modern Marys: Stuck in a Manger

There are Modern Marys all around us.

“The American Dream” is an abstract idea to many mothers struggling to raise boys to men. Many feel stuck in poverty, wandering aimlessly around the hood, searching for better conditions to raise their boys. Despite all their efforts to protect these vulnerable lads from the vicious elements, many lose their sons to early death or imprisonment. Perpetual grief is alive and well in the ghetto. Frolicking in doorways, loitering on abandoned porches. Clouds of frustration and despair hover in the atmosphere above. And when their sons are taken away too soon? There is a palpable grief that lurks below their wilted faces and clenches at their aching souls.They are tired. The hand they were dealt is taking a toll. Is there any mercy for these Marys? Does society simply shove them under the rug with their merciless sons?

The scarlet A.

America sees black men as castaways. Thugs. Hooligans. Inherently evil. Animalistic…..scarlet A’s stamped on their black chests. The narrative reads that black men that live by streets should be shown no mercy. If they die by the streets, they got what they had coming. The “injustice” system in place as a viable “plan B,” waiting to round up the others. Enrolling them in barb-wired towers of shame. There is always room at this concrete inn. For prison is where they belong. America says they should have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps anyway. It’s their fault they perpetuated their cycle. They got what they deserved.

But a mother’s love sings a different tune. Beyond the stigma and societal branding, she knows her son deserved a chance in this world. He was born pure, clean, and innocent. She loved him unconditionally because he was God’s child first. It hurts to know the odds of survival stacked high above him, before he was even born. Yet he’s blamed for not having supernatural powers to break these skyscraping barriers down. Odds that said, you don’t belong here. Your skin is too dark to matter. Odds that rang loud and clear before he even took his first breath. These Modern Marys are among us, loving their babies as they should be loved, but wishing their sons mattered more to the world.

Stuck in a manger, no golden parachutes in the hood.

The Modern Mary drifts from place to place with their Josephs, looking for acceptable conditions in which to raise their unborn sons. Doors close along her path as she frantically searches for new windows of hope. A better job. A new opportunity. A more financially-sound way to provide for their future family. Anything positive that builds a hopeful bridge into a new life. But often rejection, disappointment, and hopelessness lurks behind every turn. Shadows of defeat take residence on street corners where the weary go to congregate. The road ain’t easy for the Josephs either, as they stand by their sides, fighting their own societal demons.

Society isn’t welcoming of a poor black mother about to give birth to more poor black babies. No room at the Grand American Inn, no children allowed. There are no golden parachutes in the hood, no magical escape routes into prosperity. The world doesn’t care that she yearns for better. For poverty has already placed a bounty upon her unborn son’s head. And here she is, stuck in the manger. Intertwined with the hay, sticks, rubble and city grime. This is where her son will be born because she has no other option. And so the cycle continues.

Abandoned dreams and broken street lamps.

There’s a good chance you know Modern Mary. She may be your relative. She may attend your church. Perhaps she’s that tired young woman on the bus next to you every single day. Searching for a plan as she rubs her swollen belly, hoping she can be a good provider for her future son. Looking, searching and praying to stumble upon mercy and grace. If only she had a few more blessings. Perhaps she is…you.

So many women are forced to have babies while trapped in the cyclical nature of poverty. The intersection of hopelessness and defeat is home to abandoned dreams and broken street lamps. These mangers are embedded in dilapidated communities, far from the luxurious birthing suites of suburbia.

Always on the run.

Mary and Joseph fled from Bethlehem to Egypt to escape the execution of their young baby boy. If to only buy him a little more time, not knowing his days were already numbered.

Modern Marys don’t ask to give birth in deplorable conditions. Mangers reeking of grief, void of opportunities. They don’t desire to be dependent on subsidies to feed their children. They don’t volunteer for a lifetime of fleeing, drifting, and playing musical chairs in between communities to find a safer street on which to reside. None find joy in shielding their sons from the stray city bullets claiming lives left and right. There’s no satisfaction in understanding education is the only way out, yet knowing there are no decent schools around to offer such a gift. Modern Marys don’t CHOOSE to sign their names of the dotted lines of oppression. But still they flee. Hoping to run into a miracle or unforeseen blessing.

Sons nailed to the crosses of social injustice.

Mary’s son was nailed to the cross. Imagine the grief she felt to have put so much effort into saving him, only to see her baby die a slow death. So many Modern Marys experience the pain of realization. When they learn they are unable to pull their son’s from the undercurrent of the evil world. When it’s bitterly clear they cannot save them from the quicksand of oppression. They watch in despair as their baby boys are plucked from society, losing their life to violence or tossed in a jail cell, never to be seen again. Both scenarios are cut from the same oppressed cloth. The goal: simply erase them from life as if they never existed.

It hurts to watch their sons being nailed to the crosses of social injustice. It’s the ultimate validation that society had no plans to give them a chance. But what does Mary say to her modern-day clones? What message did she have for them?

Her song.

Mary hurt. She wept. But she also smiled through her tears. She gave the glory to God for everything He had done.

And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.”

-Luke 1:46-49

There’s something about Mary. In the midst of her sorrows, she acknowledges God’s goodness. She allows His blessings supersede her pain. She Praises Him anyhow. For He is the ultimate healer.

Modern Marys are resilient too. Their strength is unbending. They will be ok, as they continue to provide, nurture, and survive the insurvivable.


I am a career-driven mother of 3 dedicated to the health, spiritual, and emotional well-being of moms.