I originally wrote and posted this in August 2014, but it feels more applicable this morning than ever. I have changed some of the original details to reflect our current suffering...
Dear Heartbroken World,
Our hearts grieve the deaths of our beloved Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Dallas Police and DART Officers; the helpless and terrified Syrian people; the bloodshed in Baghdad, Bangladesh, Istanbul; the senseless death of those in our LGBTQ community trapped in Pulse Nightclub; the babies growing up practicing lock-down drills at home that they learn from school, showing us momma’s what to do if a man comes in with a gun—
the pain of our own broken pieces of earth.
Disease, divorce, depression.
Our hearts are grieved and we are weary.
It all seems a bit cruel right now, doesn’t it?
Roger Cohen for the New York Times once said, “Shed a tear, shed a thousand, it makes no difference.”
Although he did not write those words in the context I am applying them to, I can’t help but think they are the sentiment most easily adopted by anyone who has watched the news this week.
Shed a tear. Shed a thousand. It makes no difference.
It feels heavy. Out of control. Frantic, spoiled, hopeless, despairing and fatalistic.
In his brilliant book on the chronic depression of President Abraham Lincoln, Joshua Shenk says, “Hopelessness, in an extreme form, leads people to think that only one thing can break the cycle, and that is suicide.” He goes on to quote Edwin Shneidman, the creator of the field of suicide studies, “The single most dangerous word in all of suicidology, is the four-letter word only.”
Only one way out. Only one option left. Only going to get worse. Only way to find relief.
Shed a tear. Shed a thousand. It makes no difference…
Says the fatalistic heart who sees only death, destruction and heart-ache with no hope for beauty, redemption or joy.
But I say a tear matters. A thousand tears matter. And you and I? We are going to make it here in this beautiful, tragic world because our tears do make a difference.
Empathy matters. Our voices, raised in unison and whispered in prayer, matter. Our love for one another- the child on the border, the teenager walking the streets, the elderly in our nursing homes, the Yazidi cornered into a mountain, the driver in front of you, the person bagging your groceries, taking out your trash, the officers selflessly protecting our communities, our own babies, neighbors, spouses, friends, grandparents- our love, mercy, attention and kindness to each of these matters. Volunteering matters. I don’t care if you save a whale or a chicken! If you are reading to our children, cleaning up the side of the highway, teaching vocational skills in a prison or playing Bunko at the nursing home… it matters.
It matters that you and I show up. It matters that our tears of pain, anger, injustice and sadness pool together; that our empathy- our humanity- is not lost in the current tidal wave of destruction.
It has been said that without vision the people perish. I would say that without hope, the people perish.
A hopeless society is far more deadly than any war, atrocity or dictatorship. When the bleak, despairing voices of fatalism and defeatism threaten to overwhelm a society- bold advocates of resilient hope, faith, optimism and joy must fight all the more to be known.
Though we are hard pressed on every side, we are not broken. Though we are perplexed, we are not driven to despair. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen. (2 Corinthians 4:10)
And what of the life of Jesus?
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Jesus in us does not look like hopelessness, death, defeatism or fatalism. Jesus in us—even in our current collective suffering—looks like life. Abundant.
Joy in the sorrow. Hope in the broken spaces. Peace in the midst of chaos. Beauty overshadowing, prevailing, over every dark dirty day.
We are going to make it, you and I. We are going to do so with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. We are going to do so as bold bearers of hope. We are going to do so through our tears.
With a firm, holy indignation I refuse to believe that our showing up makes no difference in each others lives. Indeed, our willingness to show up for one another in big and small ways, is the balm that soothes broken hearts and makes pathways out of the chaos and confusion.
Shed a tear, shed a thousand? Yes, PLEASE.
Because the only commodity you and I can offer a hurting world is our tears. Tears shed by people who continue to SHOW UP with brave voices of HOPE in the midst of heartache.
Fight the good fight, friends. Don't give up. Now more than ever, it matters.