Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Shooting Choice

Another school shooting. A school shooting. This school's shooting. Reynolds High School, in Troutdale, Oregon, on June 10, 2014.

This school, this shooter. This shooter, his victim. This shooting victim. This boy.

This boy. This child. This young man. I do not know his name as I write this blog.

The school the young man attended, and where he died. The parking lot where people gather, collect their children, and go home.

I do not know what this nation will do to stem the tide of school shootings. I do think that for as long as we deny passing strong anti-gun legislation, potential shooters will have no reason not to act. I believe that we can not afford to do nothing, as silence and inaction provide implicit consent. When popular culture is itself rife with individually mandated violence, young persons will take our silence on actual acts of violence as a form of implied endorsement.

Kill, and die. Be an anti-hero (which, currently, means "legend" in certain circles).

I felt a moral urge to leave work today and drive out and be at the parking lot where children were bused from the locked-down school to be picked up by their parents and caregivers. Further, our next-door neighbor, Doug, is a teacher at the school. Doug is married to Courtney. They have a baby, Alice. If I could see Doug, and wish him well, and drive him home, or whatever, I knew I had to do that.

I had to go for Doug and all our neighbors. All the people gathered in the parking lot. I do not know what to do to stop or even impede these shootings. But I know we have to do something, lest such horrors be treated as common-place. They are not common-place. Each one is a disaster of the first magnitude, where an individual - here, again, a student - has decided to take a gun to school and open fire. On others, on himself.

So, I excused myself from work and drove out to Troutdale, Oregon. I went to the parking lot where adults waited for children.

While hoping to see Doug, and then actively waiting to see him (having overheard that teachers were due to arrive on buses), I prayed. I stood where I could see students departing their buses, one-by-one, and as each departed I prayed, Peace be with you. Or, I prayed the Hail Mary, in general, my eyes scanning the crowd. The waiting adults, the clustered children, the police officers guiding the event.

But let me get to the point. Because the point of any tragedy is what we learn, in terms of who we are, and what we will do about it, going forward. The point is not merely to worry, or shake our heads in disbelief.

I do not hope that my prayers helped. I know they helped. I know that my prayers and, undoubtedly, the prayers of people around me, helped, the way I know that if the roof of my house were to spring a leak, I would grab shingles, and a hammer, and nails, and with the help of a ladder I would gain access to and fix that leak.

The shingles and nails would stop that leak. I would simply be the instrument by which they were brought to the leak. I know that our prayers help because that is what prayers do. They confer healing, they confer understanding and peace, and they do not fail.

If shingles and nails can stop a leak in a roof, how much more efficacious are prayers to God on behalf of his children?

My prayers did not help today because of who I am, but because God is who is God.

I do not worry about the children and families of Reynolds High School, because they will heal, and they will be stronger for it. I am concerned about the destiny of a country that cannot bring clear and available legislative and enforcement resources to bear on the school shooting crisis. Being Catholic, I know something about institutional blindness and inaction in the face of pain. Yes, you might say I have very smell of it in my nostrils.

But I am a child of God, as are you.

As was the student, the boy, who died today.

And I say, our legislators had better listen. They would do well to listen to our voices, to our prayers, and act, accordingly. I do not understand how a person can resist acting who has, on one end of the response-spectrum, the President chiding them for inactivity, and, on the other, the voices and prayers of millions demanding that we act.

To return to the point. I was a moist-eyed and very focused mess this morning before heading out to Troutdale, Oregon. I am now composed. Composed and composing (this blog). So, going out there helped me. Praying helped me. That makes perfect sense.

I am in inhabitant in this house.

Me, and Doug, and a few billion neighbors.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fast and Steady Wins the Prize

The world speaks half-truths. A person speaks at best half the truth. A person is capable of speaking what they know, of what they see or understand, in human language, to an audience of persons like themselves, all being colored by time and place.

At best, at the very best, the world speaks in half-truths. I am being generous. But, that is my role.

It is half my role, and half yours.

I can speak only in half truths, but I can know entire truths. I know, for one example, that faith requires, demands, entire immersion, forever, in order for the promise to come true.

I know, too, that this is how we lead our lives.

I know of no one who does not try as hard as they can to live, and live well. To survive, to enjoy life, to have friends. To love, and love well. I do not know how anyone would do less, unless that person were so heavily burdened that they simply could not. Such people are all the more likely to win the prize.

For, the prize does not go to the best. It goes to the truest. It goes to those who fail, and who know it. It goes to those who try, and fail, and keep trying.

Fast and steady - or constantly falling - they are one and the same.

Pope Francis memorably remarked recently that if a person does not feel like a sinner, the best thing would be to not go to Mass.

Likewise, if a person does not feel like they need help, they may not see God.

But that is not us. We need help all the time.

Let me help you....