Saturday, April 20, 2013

Bent But Not Broken

This has been an impossible week of tragedy and triumph, brokenness and bravery, gory injuries and graciousness, terror and tenacity, angry words and awakenings, betrayal and blessing.

We started the week with the horror of the bombings at the Boston Marathon. The tragedy unfolded to reveal the deaths of three beautiful souls and the maiming of so many others. The losses will affect these victims, survivors, and their families for the rest of their lives. But out of it we also witnessed the triumph of the human spirit as first responders and regular citizens rushed toward the blasts to help others in need. The number of injuries and the gruesomeness of the injuries was devastating. The reality that humans did this to others was alarming and disheartening.

We moved quickly into learning that our elected officials refused to vote the will of 90% of the American people to extend the reach of background checks for gun purchases. It was a devastating loss for sensible legislation to curb gun violence. It was a crushing blow to many who have worked tirelessly for this goal. The refusal by the Senate to say NO to the NRA was painful.

This week was also marred by the mailing of ricin filled letters to a US Senator and to the President of the United States by an angry, bitter man bent on hurting others. The depth of hatred and destruction some will stoop to saddened us.

We entered into a wave of destruction once again as a fertilizer plant in West, Texas caught fire and the very firefighters who answered the call were trapped in the blaze. The explosion filled the earth with fire and fear. Fourteen persons were killed – ten of them first responders – and hundreds were injured. The loss of life and the destruction of homes and businesses will reshape and affect that community for decades to come.

The manhunt for the bombing suspects continued in the city of Boston and the surrounding communities as we moved into the later part of the week.  Word of gunfights, a carjacking, and tossed IEDs and grenades sent a wave of fear once again racing through those in the area. When word came that the first suspect was dead and later that the second had been arrested - cries of relief and gratitude poured forth from the people of Boston and around the country.

In the midst of this we learned of a massive earthquake that struck China. Hundreds are likely dead and thousands injured. The loss is tremendous and gut-wrenching. We are left to watch rescue workers rush into collapsed building debris to find survivors and everyday heroes are lending a hand. Once again we cried out in anguish.

And we are left to wonder ... Did this week suck or what?

Yes. It did. There was destruction, brutality, tragedy, terror, and betrayal. And it saddened us beyond words.

But there was also amazing heroism, bravery, tenacity, unity, and love. Bostonians opened their homes to people needing a place to stay. People in Texas rushed to help and supported the families of the firefighters killed and injured and helped persons who lost their homes. Citizens in Boston and China with no medical training came to the aid of their brothers and sisters in need and made us proud. Law Enforcement officers did their jobs with amazing tenacity and professionalism that made a city want to collectively hug them all. And a determined and brave former congresswoman, Gabby Giffords, vowed to not give up the fight on guns and tens of thousands of new folks joined her in the quest.

This week bent us - but it did not break us. It did not break us because in all of these situations people of good will banded together to react positively and to respond together. It did not break us because we joined forces regardless of gender or sexuality or age or faith or other differences.

But we did bend folks - some used the actions of a few to lump an entire religion’s followers into the role of "bad guy." Some used coded language about "brown skinned people” and "not being American enough." Some blamed gays or the government or conspiracies or each other for the danger and fear. Some assumed evil intent too quickly. Some made statements on social media that all "foreigners should be kicked out now." Some in the news media failed on so many levels.  And so did some of our leaders.

We bent. But we did not break - we are a strong people. And we are stronger together. We are better when we reach out to help and when we hold each other accountable. We are better when we understand that we are all children of God.

Our brothers and sisters in China, Boston, Texas, and around the world deserve our prayers. The victims, survivors, first responders, and those affected by these events are due our respect.

The circumstances of this week needed quiet respect and honor instead of politics, protests, and positioning. The events of this week were worthy of our best and in so many ways we rose to the occasion. But we need to be better. We need to work harder at keeping the hate, distrust, and anger at bay. We need to be more willing to wait for the right answer and not the quick one.

We bent this week folks – and we need to learn from that. But we did not break – and we need to celebrate that.