I went to Covenant Christian School today and stood at the memorial and wept. All of those beautiful faces, gone in an instant. I felt the terror of the children fleeing and the fear of their families, daring to hope that their loved ones were safe. It hangs in the air. Evelyn Dieckhaus, Mike Hill, Katherine Koonce, whom I knew, Cynthia Peak, Hallie Scruggs, and William Kinney. I say their names because I’m afraid we’ll forget. We should never forget. I wrote on every memorial cross, “choose love” – because that’s what came to me. That’s what those faces in the picture did; how they lived.
I think if everyone could stand in that space and look at those faces, and feel the pain and sadness and love there, maybe then we would decide to do something for change.
Someone told me that at a church service yesterday Katherine Koonce’s husband reminded us, with grace I wish we all had, that really seven people died. If you sit in that for a moment without reacting, without rising to quick judgement, there is more sadness. Audrey Hale.
I went home and the weight didn’t leave. It shouldn’t. I pictured the future. I pictured generations describing this period in American life. What will they say? That we let people be murdered? In this space in time, if someone didn’t think like you or look like you, they were hated? Will they name it, this time in history that we are writing? Will they call it the “Era of Creating Enemies”? “The Giving Up”? “The Age of Demonizing”? “The Hating?” Because even though we might not shoot someone, our hate and self-righteousness and blame and inability to see and reach every human, our intolerance of mistakes, our unwillingness to bend, to have the grace that Mr. Koonce has, it has consequences. We all have accountability. Are we reaping what we sow? Politicians spewing hate and condemnation and intolerance, do you feel responsible? We all are. We vote for it. We act it out in our words and actions. Yet, we have other choices.
We are a community. We are a nation. This is us. And because it’s us, we can change it. I read a powerful quote today from the Ledger that gave me pause. The author talked about how these shootings have happened too many times and still we do nothing. He writes, “In essence, we are volunteering our loved ones (to be next) by virtue of our inaction.” Does any piece of that ring true?
We are writing history. We are leaving our legacy. We stand in the place where we are the link between the past and the future. We can decide, each one of us, in every moment, what we will do to make things better. Or not. The effort to listen, to care, to withhold judgement, even to love, to change what must be changed – maybe even to sacrifice something we hold dear - so that these murders stop, to find what we have in common instead of our holding deeply onto differences – these things we owe to honor the lives lost, at Covenant Christian School and everywhere across our country. It isn’t “evil and we can do nothing”. It is us and we can do better.
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