Sunday, December 16, 2012

What Can We Do?

The surest sign that we are made for something better than suffering and death is our absolute shock, aversion and puzzlement when faced with monstrous evil.   We do not understand the deliberate destruction of the beautiful or the innocent.  Further, when faced with that final reality, we come easily to see that everyone is beautiful and innocent; that we don't want anyone to die.  

This past week's killing spree left everyone holding their own children a little tighter.  We should recognize how precious and fragile the soft hand of a 6 or 7 year old is, and how much we should treasure when they want us to walk with them, read one more story, or fix just a little more breakfast.  

But when evil manifests itself so gravely in our midst, (even when protocols and policies and laws were properly enacted to protect against such unthinkable acts), we wonder what should we do?  What could we do?  What must be done? 

There will calls for gun control restrictions. There will be calls for better mental health care programs.  Both are reasonable responses and if politicians can be reasonable, perhaps some societal good shall come from a great evil. However the real work cannot be done on a societal level, because what happened was not the end result of society, it was an act that is outside of society, it came from inside the heart of a single person.

If we need proof that society is full of people of grace, we need only look at the custodian who ran through the hall warning teachers, or the kid who led his class friends out, or the teacher who lied and died to protect her students or the principal, or any of the adults who sought to keep a touch of normal in an unnormal situation, to preserve a touch of childhood when the world had gone mad.   There are far more people seeking to be light in the worst of situations, than those who seek to create the ultimate darkness. 

There is a terrifying unspoken element to this story, that each of us contains within us, a heart capable of darkness.  Not the same darkness, but there are all kinds of ways that we contribute to the isolation, loneliness, darkness, hunger and thirst of the world, by our words, by not talking, by our refusal to act, by our refusal to get involved.  Getting involved in the world is a dangerous thing, it is messy. Furthermore, if we do act, we will not be the same.

But the everyday courage of going out your door and engaging other people, as you shop, as you park your car, order food, help with homework, greet a teacher, see a neighbor or sit in a pew, these are the little acts of love that can knit and mend 1000 cuts if they are repeated every day all our lives.  We cannot stop sin in any hearts but our own, but we can encourage grace in others as we live by our lives.   So read a story, decorate your home, make gifts, give generously, hug fiercely, feast with your family, pray through your anger, pray through your frustrations, pray through the tedium that eats at good will and good humor.  It is the only way to be a light against the dark that seems often to gather and grow.  

Everyday courage is love in action.   Everyday courage involves meeting actual people and seeing them as beautiful, treating them as worthy of preserving, of serving, of walking with them, reading one more story, fixing one more breakfast.   Everyday courage sees Gollum as Smeagol and hopes he can be saved.  Everyday courage hopes even the killer of all these beautiful people, has found healing and forgiveness and peace, because everyday courage recognizes that "Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement."  even when it seems easy to judge.

What can we do?  Light the pink candle, celebrate Advent, and be the people of hope, who do the everyday things with everyday courage.    


LarryD said...

Wow. Beautiful.

maria mcclure said...

I knew I could count on you to put this beautifully.

Now if we could just get the media to stop making a star out of people who do these things. It only encourages more of the same as they try to top the last one.

NC Sue said...

I couldn't agree more.

I also decided to try to respond in kindness to the tragic events of 12/14/12 in Newtown CT. For each of the 28 people who died, I am performing an act of kindness. With each act, I am giving a card explaining in whose name I'm doing a kindness and why. If you wish to download a copy of the card or learn more about it, please go to or, if you want a tiny url, to

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!