This weekend, I read something in the news that was, well, good – good is a wholesome, sturdy, humble adjective, right? One we cannot often use to describe the news or any other modern event, these days, which is why I thought it was important to share. Where we place our attention matters – it reminds us of what is true about the human spirit and our shared life together.
This morning, over 3,000 people in El Paso attended the funeral of a victim, Margie Reckard, who only had one surviving family member in the area, her husband. Her husband did not have to grieve alone; instead, he was held by love that transcended the fray – the ordinary busyness of life, the media circus that descended upon El Paso, the abhorrent inaction on the part of the American government. Thousands of individuals woke up perhaps earlier than planned, pressed pause on their lives and plans, to accompany a stranger in his loss.
Tears welled in my eyes at the sight of so many people waiting in line for the service. The definition of compassion is to “suffer with,” to suffer together. While many were strangers, to each other and to this man who has lost his love so unjustly, they showed up with love, respect, and empathy. Darkness lessened by light, loss held by solidarity, aloneness replaced by presence, even just for a brief time.
In this country, which is so vast and in which violence is routinely made a spectacle, we can easily become desensitized to the emotional and physical pain of others. We allow our fear to harden our hearts, and instead of sharing our grief, our loneliness, our shame, our fear, with one another so that we might be able to carry it all together, we retreat. We cannot heal our communities in isolation, in crunched postures with trembling hands.
Mary Jose Hobday, a Seminole Franciscan Sister, once wrote, “it takes a moist heart to walk with our brothers and sisters, a moist heart to be at peace in ourselves, a moist heart to serve the people well.” In order to live with compassion, we must keep our hearts warm, soft, permeable to both pain and love, for both are illuminating, moving, and the sources of wisdom.
It is brave work to remain open, to show up, to walk with, to mourn with, to share in joy together, holy work, good work. Remember, dear sojourners, love is not just a feeling, but something to do. Despite a lot of evidence to the contrary, the world gives us opportunities to love each other better each day.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16