Reflections After Another School Shooting

There was another school shooting this week---this time in Central St. Louis.  

Two people were killed in addition to the gunman, who was said to have been thwarted in his efforts to kill more people because of the lockdown procedures the school had in place. 

The news of this shooting was buried on most major news outlets' websites underneath news of the death of actor Leslie Jordan, a story about Senator Lindsey Graham, and a host of others.  I know this because I checked. 

Meanwhile, we'll all collectively shrug our shoulders and decide everything will be all right since it didn't happen in our neighborhood.  

That shrug of resignation is practiced more in our culture than all of the combined efforts we might exert to change or transform the world for the better. 

There's a line from a song by Matt Kearny that speaks to this denial of our shared suffering: 

You could try to run from what runs in your blood
But you still gotta share it. 
And we watch our friends play the same old game
And we all pretend that we’re okay… 

The songwriter is aware of the brokenness within himself, a brokenness shared by his friends, who (like him) are all playing a game of hide and seek with their pain, acting like nothing is wrong. 

This is what we do instead of allowing ourselves to be connected to the suffering of those who experienced another tragedy like the one in Central St. Louis, Uvalde, TX before that, and Parkland before that... 

It's easier to blind ourselves to the collective pain we all feel when the world around us is wounded rather than face the reality that when one of us suffers, we all do.  

In the Buddhist tradition, there is a practice known as tonglen, which allows practitioners to use breathing and prayer to participate in both the pain and the healing of the world.  

Pema Chodron teaches that when you practice tonglen, you breathe in the "dark and murky air" of the pain of a loved one, a friend, or even an enemy and then breathe out the "clear, cool air" of healing and peace.  

But tonglen can also become a prayer for the pain in the world around us, which may very well include our own suffering because of it.  

The Apostle Paul wrote to the followers of the Way of Christ in the First Century about what it meant to "bear one another's burdens" to be part of a Christ-centered community.  

What Paul said was that we should be willing to take on the pain and the struggles of others who may not be able to carry them on their own and be ready to bear those burdens as long as necessary.  

These practices enable us to engage more fully with the suffering in our world, to feel the pain, to refuse to gloss over it or push it aside, and then do what we can to make it right and whole again.  

We also cannot relegate the pain of these tragedies in our schools to a "below-the-fold" story, nor can we shrug our shoulders in resignation any longer.  

Laboring toward healing is good and holy work, but we should also be willing to take action to prevent these tragedies from happening... again... and again...  

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with us all now and forever.  Amen.  


Popular posts from this blog

Wuv... True Wuv...

Rapha & Yada - "Be Still & Know": Reimagined

The Lord Needs It: Lessons From A Donkey