When we lived in Kansas, Heather once had a surgery that kept her in the hospital for a week. I know it was a week because of the parade of food that resulted.
If you’ve ever lived in the Midwest, you know what I mean. Small towns and church communities have a sixth sense for when one of their own needs help. That’s when the casseroles start lining up – because even if everything else in your life is chaos, by jingo, you won’t have to worry about dinner for a while. Just return the dishes when you’re done.
It was love made visible. Concrete caring.
Which brings me to Orlando.
As I’ve said before, I’m tired of writing about mass shootings. I’m sure most of you are tired of reading about them. We’re all tired of living with them, and the pain and confusion that follow in their wake.
As the drumbeat of violence goes on, seemingly without end, nerves are getting strained. Tempers are growing thin. For Exhibit A, just watch the reaction when any politician makes the now-traditional offering of “Our thoughts and prayers.”
“Never mind the thoughts and prayers, man! What are you going to do?”
Now, as one friend pointed out, thoughts and prayers by themselves are not a bad thing. When a horrific act occurs, we need a quiet space to sort things out. We need to think, to meditate, to pray and commune, so that we can get centered again and see a way forward.
But this should be a beginning. Not an ending.
What do we think about? What do we pray for? When we go into this quiet space, what do we come out ready to do?
When someone is sick, we don’t just offer thoughts, prayers, and cards. We make food. We run errands. We pay visits to ward off loneliness.
When a friend is in tight straits financially, we don’t just wish them luck and move on. We pass the hat. We offer help. Maybe we even slip an anonymous gift card into the mailbox.
When a society is wounded and bleeding, what do we do? The answer is, and always must be, whatever we can to answer the pain.
Our job is not just to pray. It’s to be the answer to someone’s prayer.
As a Christian, my own thoughts go to the challenge of James. “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or daily food,” he wrote, long centuries ago. “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well-fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? … Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by my deeds.”
What do we do?
Do we address the issue of guns? Of mental health? Do we dare look at the problem while it is fresh in our minds and burning in our hearts and offer some sort of answer to it? If nothing else, can we offer any assistance to those still alive, to the families forever scarred by this abominable act?
Or do we simply argue, and groan, and maybe offer a word or two of blame before running for cover? Stand vigil for a bit, change a Facebook image for a week or so, and then move on until the next horror?
If that’s what we want, there’s nothing easier in the world. Just keep it up.
If we want better, we have to work for it. Hope demands nothing less.
Yes, give thought to what has happened. Yes, pray by all means. But in those thoughts, in those prayers, look for the next step on the road. How do we come out of this quiet space ready to make life better?
What do we have to offer? What can we give? What can we create?
The time is now. A world waits.
What will we bring to the door?