Last weekend I went to church and was aware of a discomfiture that I don’t typically feel in church. The weeks before that Sunday had been difficult ones for our country. Bombs had been mailed to high-profile people all over America. Just days after that, a man entered a place of worship and murdered 11 people in cold blood. These kinds of events, sadly, are not isolated. They’ve been happening for years. Maybe it’s just that news travels so much faster now and that it’s covered 24/7, but the events were so upsetting that I couldn’t get my head wrapped around them.
So I sat in church, realizing that I had lost the feeling of God in my life — in my head, certainly, but also in my heart and in my soul. He wasn’t a presence I could find and this feeling was underscored when we began to sing “I Am Thine” and “Close to Thee.”
The episodes of horror and evil seem to me to be increasing. Fear is on the rise. Hatred is being expressed so openly and so violently that for a day or two, I felt my own faith waver. I’m not sure that’s a totally accurate description, but I certainly felt lost, out of kilter, unsettled.
In the middle of worship, I felt myself begin to breathe a little. The ministers seemed to know what to say to provide us with guidance and reminders that God is present. That in the midst of evil, deceit, hatred, and division, it is up to each of us to provide a little light in our world.
I came home and watched a bit of the vigil in Pittsburgh. The families and neighbors and friends of the people who died in their synagogue offered a message of love.
I spent some time reflecting on the downtown Troy trick-or-treat event from the previous Saturday. For two hours, a number of shopkeepers downtown sat outside, handing out treats to the over 700 children who braved the chilly weather. Parents encouraged their children to say “thank you,” and we all got to see the princesses, superheroes, animals, gorillas, Hogwarts students, and Disney characters smile when they received caramel corn, candy, bubbles, and even toothbrushes. Miles and miles of smiles and laughter and delight in the simple act of receiving a little treat.
Hatred can be a real and dangerous force in our lives and in our world if we let it. But love is real, too. Love, faith, hope, and kindness are ever-present. We can do more than look for them and celebrate them — we can share them, as well.
We can surround ourselves with people who share those values. We can disagree — respectfully — when people say evil, hurtful, hate-filled, or even just fearful things. People are people no matter their race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. They all grieve when loved ones die. They all love their children. They all worry about the future. And very few don’t smile when somebody dressed in a pumpkin costume hands them a piece of candy.
Let’s offer hope instead of hate.
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Sue is a retired public servant who volunteers at the Hospice store (For All Seasons) in Troy and teaches part-time at Urbana University. She keeps busy taking care of husband, house, and pets. She and her husband have an adult son who lives in Troy.