This time around, I didn’t offer my thoughts and prayers publicly. It wouldn’t be enough.
It’s not enough for me to spout pious sentiments on social media.
So I mostly stayed silent.
For nearly 48 hours, I’ve let most of my words come from others. I offered a few tweets, one Facebook status update.
And it wasn’t enough.
I wasn’t even sure how to do that, to become an instrument of peace, to sow love and hope. I’ve been reflecting on it for most of two days.
Forty-nine people slaughtered; 53 injured.
So how do we fathom such evil?
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims,” the politicians tweet.
What are your prayers, politicians? What are your thoughts? Or are you just giving a cursory nod to your voters, hoping they’ll stay off your back? It’s hollow.
This is what we say when we don’t know what to say.
This is what we say when we’re trying to tolerate and not engage fully with others. And when we don’t really want to get our hands dirty.
Be free, my thoughts for others. Check. Now I can go back to all my other thoughts.
Be free, my prayers to God. Check. I’m letting God handle it now; it’s not my responsibility.
How about instead – we go beyond?
So what if instead, we stand up for the worth and dignity of all people – Black and white, gay and straight, Christian and Muslim, child and adult, gun-toter and gun-hater?
What if we simplify our labels to just one label? Child of God.
And if we each saw God and our common humanity in the face of every person that we encountered, what could our world become? Whether they believe like we believe, look like we look, or dress like we dress?
Would we choose love, or would we choose hate? Would we choose to continue the violence, or would we choose to turn the other cheek and end the cycle?
How would that change things?
If we saw God – or our common humanity – in the face of every human being, how would we respond instead? Would we still choose to stand by and simply offer our thoughts and prayers? Would we overlook any attempts at transformation, and then move on to the next task?
Or would we simply say, “This is wrong.”
What if we asked a simple question?
What if, instead of tweeting that we’re sending our thoughts and prayers, we said, “What can I do?” And then, what if we sat quietly with that question?
Pause. And what then?
Instead of clinging tightly to our labels with one hand and our arrows (or guns) with the other, would we try to get to know someone different from us? Would we seek to understand their point of view?
Instead of staying riveted to cable news and trolling the Internet, would we stop the noise and chaos, take a breath and look for a fresh perspective?
Would we say, I may not agree with you, but you too are a child of God, deserving of respect; can we talk about it?
Yesterday, today, and in the days to come, these are my thoughts.
These are my prayers.
Oh Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.
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