How I will Honor The Ones That Died This Week

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My husband and I were volunteering this past Sunday at church and a young man walked up and asked me to take a stack of books he wanted to donate.  Which is nice, but we don’t really take book donations at my church.  He thought someone else might like to read these books.  I explained that since we don’t maintain any book lending library, that no one would know they were here or be able to find them.  He started to get a little anxious, saying that his dad would make him throw them away and he didn’t want them to be wasted.  I suggested that he donate them to Goodwill or another place like that.  He said again that if he didn’t give them to the church that his dad was going to make him throw them out right then and there.  He was getting more and more agitated at that idea.

I love books.  I can’t bear the idea of books being thrown away.  To just toss a book in the trash can makes my heart hurt.  I could understand why the idea of throwing the books away might upset him.

So I took the books.  I could feel the relief in the young man’s body.  I told him I would take care of donating the books to a place like Goodwill.   His shoulders visibly relaxed.  He reached out and touched my shoulder, thanking me.  I thought of how many people just want to feel like someone understands the things that are important to them.  How much we all want to feel seen, feel heard and feel understood.

I also thought of the young man in Isla Vista, who had become so twisted in his mental illness and loneliness that he felt justified in killing people.  I remembered a statistic I heard once that single men are among the least touched humans in American culture.  We have no culturally-appropriate way for them to be touched outside of romantic or sexual contact.  I am in no way suggesting that a few hugs would have prevented the horrible tragedy in Isla Vista.  But I can’t help but wonder if there might be a connection between the fact that the same demographic that is the most likely to commit violent crime is also the least touched in our society.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I watched an interview with Maya Angelou.  When she was asked for her guidance on how we should respond, she said (and this is from my memory and is not meant to be an exact quote) that we must first give ourselves time to grieve, and to forgive, so that we will make our choices from a place of love and not hate.  I remember her saying that when we respond from anger we just continue the cycle of violence.

So this week, I am giving myself time to grieve and to forgive before I do anything else.  I will just try to love all those I come in to contact with.   I will hear Maya Angelou’s words in my ears and will do nothing more, at least not today.

I will continue to try and find empathy in my heart – even for the ones that send me unkind e-mails or get angry with me on the freeway or get frustrated with me for not having the answers they were hoping for.  I will hold the words of Maya Angelou in my mind and in my heart so that I do not jump to conclusions or judge things I know little about.

I will not continue the cycle of meanness, of anger, or of violence.  I will not tell you to give up your guns or to arm your daughters with pepper spray or to lock up the insane.  I might say one of those things tomorrow, but I’m in no condition to decide what is right today.  For today, I will just grieve the loss of those precious lives in Isla Vista and the life of Dr. Angelou, each taken from us before we were ready.  I will work on finding forgiveness for the young man that felt the need for “retribution” and the failure of modern medicine to keep my beloved Dr. Angelou healthy and alive a bit longer.

Today, I will just light a candle, say a prayer, and honor these losses by acting only with love.

Please share your thoughts.

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