The week began with headlines remembering the courageous life and work of Elie Wiesel. But those headlines were replaced almost instantly with shaky cell phone images that have rightly scorched the emotions of most everyone I know. Those images, along with the others in recent years that have grabbed our collective attention (for a while, anyway), give all of us eyes to see what has been happening for years when there were no cell phone cameras and 24-hour news channels. This week has brought us an eruption of violence that is Chapter 159 in the excruciating racial history in this country. It’s hard to muster hope when we’ve seen video footage of the brutal murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers (with seven others wounded in that attack). This story rides on the shoulders of a stunning string of terrorist attacks around the world, including Orlando, which took place during Ramadan. And I can not forget the litany that fills the headlines of my local news each night at 10 p.m.: There have been more than 2,000 shootings so far this year in the city of Chicago.
Each of these stories has a “so far” to it. There’s a long complex systemic, social, and religious history under each event filling the airwaves this week. Each of these events has a momentum, and it seems today that none of us knows how to slow or reverse that momentum.
A friend who also writes about spiritual topics sent me a message this morning. “What’s the point?” she asked. “Why am I even doing this?”
Do our words matter? Can anything be done to change anything to snuff out that fuse threatening to detonate an already-smoldering Mt. Everest of TNT, shattering us all into a zillion billion pieces?
I cannot cure everybody. I cannot help everybody. But to tell the lonely person that I am not far or different from that lonely person, that I am with him or her, that’s all I think we can do and we should do. – Elie Wiesel
The sage and spicy Jen Hatmaker posted these words on Facebook today. They act as additional commentary on Wiesel’s response to my friend’s despair – and my own:
What a terrible, terrible, violent week.
Calling all peacemakers. Who will broker peace among us? Who will do this hard and holy work? Who will go between people that fear and harm each other and build bridges? We have to.
Do what you can today to create peace. Forgive someone. Call someone you’ve been meaning to encourage. Invite someone over that operates way outside your lane. Eat lunch in a different part of town and tip 40%. Offer kind words to someone that may be especially hurting and scared this week. Choose grace when you could choose barbs. Pray deeply and sincerely. Believe the peaceful man from Nazareth knew what he was talking about when he told us to forgive, love enemies, defend the innocent, lay down our rights for others.
Calling all peacemakers.
Silence is a wise companion in grief, and makes space for tears of lament. Silence begets humility. But even if only to one other person in our world, I believe that each of us has the power and responsibility to speak words of life, truth, grace, and love when the time for silence passes.
I believe in the marrow of my soul that things in this world would be even grimmer if we didn’t.