Friday, September 10, 2010

How to Commemorate a Day of Horror

I react with visceral aversion whenever there's a threat of book burning, whether sacred or secular. To me, all texts are sacred. To burn them shows a blatant disregard for what makes us human, the same way that terrorism shows a blatant disregard for our shared humanity.

So, I will not be burning books on Saturday or any other day. I will be hanging out with my parents and my spouse, and I will be saying frequent prayers of thanks that all of my loved ones are still here with me, on this side of the grave. Our time together grows ever shorter. What will I wish I had done when I've lost those loved ones?

I can't imagine the grief of losing a loved one, even to normal circumstances, like old age. How much worse it would be to lose a loved one to a terrorist attack. I loved this op-ed piece in The New York Times, where the ever-wonderful Nicholas Kristof tells us about two women who were widowed by the September 11 events. But instead of hardening their hearts, they went to work: "So at a time when the American government reacted to the horror of 9/11 mostly with missiles and bombs, detentions and waterboardings, Ms. Retik and Ms. Quigley turned to education and poverty-alleviation projects — in the very country that had incubated a plot that had pulverized their lives. "

Their efforts benefit mainly women and children. These widows understand that by helping one member of a family, you help the whole family. And sometimes, that can affect the neighbors, maybe a whole village. One of the women says, “'It would be na├»ve to think that we can change the country, but change has to start somewhere. If we can provide a skill for a woman so that she can provide for her family going forward, then that’s one person or five people who will have a roof over their head, food in their bellies and a chance for education.'”

It's a shame that our policy makers can't adopt this approach. But you and I can. We have countless ways that we can make the difference in the lives that cross ours, or in the lives that we will never meet. We can donate money to organizations which make a difference in the world. We can donate our time in volunteer work. We can pray for the people around us who we see unraveling. We can pray for our leaders, even if we didn't vote for them and don't like them--especially if we didn't vote for them and don't like them. We can pray for the dispossessed who are so hopeless that they feel like terrorism is their best option. We can pray for those who seek to exploit our sense of hopelessness and despair.

We are called to be the light in the darkness, the leaven in the loaf. We must act like the resurrection people we are called to be.

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