It should be pretty clear by now, nobody knows what to do.
And I find myself asking, “Is this our new normal?” But I keep rejecting that, because God forbid I ever accept as normal, one suffering human taking down hundreds of strangers.
But how do I respond?
Author Anne Lamott has some pretty good thoughts here. She says Cain is still killing Abel, just as he always has, but grace still bats last.
My sister lives in Nice.
She was having dinner five blocks from the truck massacre. She and her friends were swept into waves of people running from what they didn’t know. They just knew they should run. The friend she was dining with wrote this in the Huff Post about the experience.
It prompted someone to say on her Facebook page, “that was a little too close.”
Let us not delude ourselves. We are all a little too close now. The idea that anyone can “keep us safe” from a guy driving a truck into a crowd, or the other terrors we imagine but don’t speak, is just foolish.
Unfortunately, this rage, this sickness, this despair is alive to some degree in all of us, and only in that space can a meaningful response begin.
Don’t believe me?
Pick a tragedy. Ataturk Airport Istanbul. Dallas PD. Bangladesh. Iraq. Orlando. Nice. Did you know there are pages-long lists of terrorist attacks organized by month on Wikipedia?
How did you react to the news of each? Rage? Invective? I alternate between that and sighing defeat, but what does that accomplish? Nothing. It just releases more anger, fear and despair in my orbit.
Maybe you’re not enraged by the carnage.
But how do you react when you see a Black Lives Matter rally? Do you murmur and grumble? Make surly comments? What about Trump and Hillary? I. Can’t. Even.
What comes out of your mouth then? What do you release into your orbit? Certainly, (hopefully) it’s different by degree, but not in nature.
It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, Jesus said. It’s what comes out.
Someone told me once, the key to victory in spiritual warfare (and don’t kid yourself, that is happening) is entering the battle bearing the opposite spirit. St. Francis explained it like this:
Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, let me sow pardon, where there is despair, let me bring hope. We saw that this week in Dallas. Thank God.
But after Bastille Day, with our Nicoise brothers and sisters lying dead in the street, nothing could be more irrational and impossible. Nothing. Yet, Jesus said to do it, so it must be possible. But He never said it would be easy or cheap.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ He said. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
To do such an impossible thing, we have to believe that Jesus is the God of impossible redemptions. Which I do.
Kindness is the fruit of the spirit I most want to cultivate right now. So when I find myself shouting expletives at my tv, I try to catch it and consider how unkind that is. It only poisons Sam and me and our home.
What I’m trying to do instead is stay within my circle of influence – controlling the things I can – like my mouth, my interaction with people I love, and my service to people around me.
So I’m choosing kindness when what I want to do is scream. I’m choosing quiet, unseen service to other humans when I want to be selfish and angry. I’m choosing to slow it down and respond carefully in conflict, rather than just reacting in my same old ways.
And I’m choosing to pray and fill this space with beautiful images from one of my favorite cities on earth. Nice. Mon coeur est brise´.
What else can I do?
Maybe this sounds naive in light of the shocking and seemingly relentless terror that plagues the world now. If I could do something about all that rage and violence, I would.
Maybe what I can do is deal with my own.