I am trying to process my thoughts and feelings about what happened in Ferguson last night. I do not usually watch the news and try to steer clear of negativity. But I watched the footage and all I felt was sadness. These events in Ferguson have been so polarizing. There is so much anger, hate, rage and hostility being expressed from all “sides” of this story. I do not choose to take a side in this situation; rather, I am trying to see all sides and to see the larger picture. Here are a few of my thoughts this morning after the announcement of the decision and the subsequent rioting.
- Anger is a secondary emotion. When we feel angry, we must look deeper to see what the real emotion is that is causing us to feel angry. There are a lot of very angry people over what happened in Ferguson – from Michael Brown’s killing all the way to the Grand Jury’s decision not to indict yesterday. Racial tensions run very deep in this country, and while I wish there was an easy way to change that, sadly there is not. It is complicated. One thing I know for sure is that in order to bring about changes in attitudes that we have towards one another, we need open, respectful dialogue. But I have not seen very much of that over the past 12 hours and I believe the reason for that is because of all the anger. We cannot “hear” each other when we are swimming in that boiling cauldron of anger. And if we cannot hear each other, we will not move forward and we will not bring about change and we will certainly not move towards greater connection, which is what this world and humanity desperately needs. Can we hold our thoughts and our comments until the anger subsides? Can we open our hearts and hold the space for people who do not share our opinions and beliefs?
- Beyond anything else about this situation, there is a mother who is and has been grieving the death of her son, her child. I know that unbearable pain intimately, and it is not a pain I would wish on anyone. No matter how we feel about the turn of events in Ferguson, let us not forget this mother’s suffering. Can we each hold her in prayer or hold the space for her pain?
- No matter how we feel about the events in Ferguson, there is a police officer who went to work every day and put his life on the line to protect others and uphold the law. Whether I believe this particular officer should have been indicted or not is irrelevant; what I know is that every day in every part of this great nation, police officers do that very same thing. I consider myself a fairly courageous person, but I do not possess the kind of courage it takes to be a police officer. For all of the police officers (and firefighters and military personnel) I offer my sincerest gratitude and Thanksgiving. Can we hold each of them in prayer or hold the space for the courage they must find every day to go to work?
- We are all connected. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed in an indirect way. The world becomes a little bit brighter. And when one of us suffers, we all suffer. This much is true. And what I think made me the saddest last night is watching all the people rioting in the streets and looting the stores because none of them realize this very basic fact. We are all suffering in some small or large way from what has been evolving in Ferguson and rioting is not going to bring us any closer to peace and is not going to bring us any closer to each other as fellow humans. In a direct way, the rioting even tears down the very town where so much pain resides. Ferguson is already suffering. Why make it suffer more?
- There is good all over this world, but sometimes, especially in difficult times, you must look very closely in order to find it. But I assure you it is there. The past few days, I have had donations pouring in to me to help a family in my town whose house burned down last week. The outpouring of support for complete strangers has been overwhelming and continues to deepen my faith in humanity. This family is suffering and that means we all suffer. Any one of us could have been in their situation, and many of the people who understand that we are all connected are the ones who took the time to send a donation or a gift card. Seeing people reaching out to help this family in my town from literally all over the country shows me that. How can we ease the suffering in Ferguson and thus, for all of us as connected fellow humans? I am not sure that answer is so easy, but it is something to consider. But I do know that we can all bring some light to this world if we collectively take small steps in that direction.
There are a few other things I found comforting that I want to share here. First is a quote from Mother Theresa, who said that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” Just sit with that for a moment…
This morning, Glennon Melton from Momastery shared this Benedictine Blessing:
May God bless us with discomfort at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our hearts.
May God bless us with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless us with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.
And may God bless us with enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.
Lastly, my cousin shared this story on his Facebook page today and it fits nicely with how I have been feeling today:
“Why We Shout In Anger”
A Hindu saint who was visiting the river Ganges to take bath found a group of family members on the banks, shouting in anger at each other. He turned to his disciples, smiled and asked “Why do people shout in anger shout at each other?” The disciples thought for a while and then one of them said, “Because we lose our calm, we shout.”
“But, why should you shout when the other person is just next to you? You can as well tell him what you have to say in a soft manner.” said the saint. The disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the other disciples.
Finally the saint explained. “When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other to cover that great distance. What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is either nonexistent or very small.”
The saint continued “When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.”
He looked at his disciples and said “So when you argue do not let your hearts get distant, Do not say words that distance each other more, or else there will come a day when the distance is so great that you will not find the path to return.”
If any of this resonates with you, I invite you to sit with and ponder it and see how you can bring some light to this world today and this week as we move closer to this holiday of Thanksgiving.