Last Friday night I was watching news coverage on the Paris attacks in my bedroom, unaware that Deeds was standing in the doorway until he asked, “Why would someone want to shoot so many people?”
My heart sunk, my sweet boy who shows so little malice to those around him could not fathom what he was hearing and reading on screen. I paused the TV and by then Gwen was also in the room so we curled up on the bed to talk. While speaking with them about some of the things that happened I prayed, with all my heart that I would not say too much for their young ears. I thought of a quote I’d seen floating around from Fred Rogers:
“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”
I felt comfort as I told my two young children that if they sought it there would always be good, even when if feels like hope is lost and darkness is all that is left. We looked at the TV screen that was paused and saw a stretcher being rushed to an ambulance. Gwen tearfully asked, “is that hurt person going to live?” I was honest and told her I didn’t know, but people at hospitals will work very hard to help them. We talked about first responders, people opening their homes to those in need, and the millions of prayers being offered from all around to comfort those that need comfort not only in France but everywhere. My mind thought of those who have survived the unthinkable and still looked for the light like Corrie Ten Boom, and Cassidy Stay. My heart was breaking at the world my children are growing up in and I wanted nothing more then to stop fear from invading the heads of my little ones, but sometimes we can’t hide it all and in those cases I think it’s vital they look for the light because it can be in the most unexpected places.
Weeks before these events even happened Jeremy and I had discussed our heartache and concern for those fleeing Syria after watching an eye opening news piece about the situation. The reality of the difficulties they face were beyond our wildest comprehension.
Over the course of this past week I’ve been shocked to see so much hatred being expressed about refuges and Muslims. Discussions getting heated and angry, lacking in civility and sometimes even the most basic facts (true and ignorant alike) being hurled like weapons. Inaccurate statistics about those fleeing, and sensationalized language being used by news media and government officials (or hopeful officials) was only making these things worse.
Before bed last night Jeremy and I talked for quite awhile about our feelings surrounding much of today’s current events. I slept poorly, woke grumpy and then read this post titled Mother of Exiles,which I highly recommend, and it really resonated with me. I decided I was done quietly watching without saying what I was feeling.
The truth is this is a very complex issue, but when history is past and generations beyond us look at the way we treated others what will they say. I do not want hatred, ignorance, intolerance and fear to be what I’m remembered for so I’m speaking out in my own little way.
I saw someone make the following analogy on a friends Facebook post, he asked if you had 9 grapes that were good but one that was poisonous would you eat the grapes, would you feed them to your children? I was shocked at the ease at which this person replaced a human life with a small piece of fruit. I appreciate his fear, I’m not saying he doesn’t have the right to his opinion on the matter but in my mind eating the good grapes in his analogy was the Christian (not to mention humane) thing to do so I privately responded to a friend about the comment and said that I’d rather die knowing I was showing Christlike love to all the other 9 grapes than do nothing.
People are NOT grapes. To diminish the reality of the millions suffering, over half (51.2%) of which are children under the age of 17 (as of 11/17/2015), is cruel and shameful. In October 2001 the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Gordon B. Hinckley addressed the church at general conference in a talk entitled The Times in Which We Live. During this talk he said something that is just as pertinent now, 14 years later as it was then:
The terrible forces of evil must be confronted and held accountable for their actions. This is not a matter of Christian against Muslim… We value our Muslim neighbors across the world and hope that those who live by the tenets of their faith will not suffer. I ask particularly that our own people do not become a party in any way to the persecution of the innocent. Rather, let us be friendly and helpful, protective and supportive. It is the terrorist organizations that must be ferreted out and brought down.
My heart breaks to see our nation so terrified to help. I cringe as I see “Christian” friends and family saying and posting messages full of intolerance and hatred. I would not want to be judged by those who are not Christian by some of the things I’m seeing, or by acts of violence done by someone who is Christian, just like many Muslims do not want to be judged by acts of terrorism. I understand there is fear about immigration for many different reasons. I however am not willing to avoid helping fellow humans in need on hypothetical fear, hiding in the dark shadow of “what if.” I will NOT teach my children this fear. I choose instead to teach them to love, acceptance, and faith. In the bible, Matthew 5:44-45, it reads:
I don’t see a caveat in there, as a matter of fact I see a call to action, for prayer and loving works of service for our fellow men. I have friends that are Muslim, wonderful, caring and loving friends. Your words of ignorance, judgement and anger on social media are damaging not just to these people and their families but to humanity as a whole.
I know there has been concern by many about our own problems in this country not being dealt with first, the economy, mass shootings, homelessness, taking care of our veterans, etc. My question is this, what have you done to help with these things other than posting a picture or
sentence on twitter or Facebook? Have you spent the early morning hours under a freezing overpass preparing food in the middle of winter to help feed the hungry? Have you given someone in need the sweater off your back as you see them blue and shivering? Have you helped change laws, organized food drives, improved mental health services, donated your time on even the most menial of tasks to help with these situations?
If you have then great, keep doing these things, if you haven’t then might I suggest complaining less and serving more? Even the smallest acts of service can change the lives of those involved. Being in favor of helping refugees does not mean that I am blind to other issues or haven’t helped with them as well. It also doesn’t mean I have to stop helping.
The wonderful thing about our country is that we have the right to disagree. I have no less love for the friends and family that I am close to who have differing opinions of mine than I do for those who might agree. Anger does not need to be part of our disagreeing. Do I believe terrorism and those that wish to cause harm just to spread fear is evil, without a doubt, but I will not let my feelings about terrorism spread to tarnish the fact that we are talking about millions of innocent lives. Anger can cloud even the most clear of minds, and this is a situation that needs level heads and calm hearts.
I know this was a long post, it took quite a long time to decide how I wanted to write it, but I knew I wouldn’t sleep well again until I did. For my posterity, my conscious, my relationship with God, my place in humanity and my children I wanted to express my concern for the tone of our country and much of the world right now. This isn’t an easy situation and displaced anger is not going to make it any easier. This quote from President Gordon B. Hinkley in the April 2003 session of conference from his talk titled War and Peace sums up my feelings fairly well.
“Now, there is much that we can and must do in these perilous times. We can give our opinions on the merits of the situation as we see it, but never let us become a party to words or works of evil concerning our brothers and sisters in various nations on one side or the other. Political differences never justify hatred or ill will. I hope that the Lord’s people may be at peace one with another during times of trouble, regardless of what loyalties they may have to different governments or parties.”
As I get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family this coming week I know that we will not only be giving thanks for all that we have, but we will continuously be asking “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?” (Acts 9:6) and keeping our hearts open so that he may guide us in our words, thoughts, actions and deeds.