Sometimes things happen that are more important than any of our professional interests. Some of them happened this week. I wrote the following as a reflection to my Facebook friends, then decided I should post a slightly edited version here. It doesn’t particularly relate to creativity or teaching, but it does relate to life. Here’s what I’m thinking this morning.
Yesterday I went to church. As I sat there, surrounded by people I love, I couldn’t help imagining the loving peaceful scene that must have been there at the Tree of Life Synagogue, right before a gun man entered that sacred space. And somehow, he believed he had the right to kill people because of the ways they worship—as so so many people have done through human history. It makes my heart hurt—especially in this week of real and attempted violence.
I am not Jewish, but I’ve been blessed to have some interactions with Jewish Family Services (JFS) in Ann Arbor because of their work with refugee communities. I’ve had a chance to substitute helping in their food pantry, and over a few years I’ve served as an English language tutor to three different women (or groups of women) who are new to our country and our community. And you know what? Not one of those women is Jewish. They just had a need. The website for JFS says, “Create solutions; Promote dignity; Inspire humanity,” and that is what they do. That is what faith does, when it is working.
I don’t know a lot of things. Things about my own faith community can make me crazy. But years ago a wise Jesuit friend told me that people of faith—whatever faith—have more in common than they have differences. One of those things should be loving and serving one another, without exception, conditions, or discrimination. And so today, as I work to find my own faith path, I mourn with those who mourn and wonder what I can do. I don’t have answers, but I’m going to work on two small steps. First, I want to work across faith communities where I can, whether it be through JFS, the programs at our local interfaith shelter, or other community programs. We belong together and we’re stronger that way. And second, I’m going to work harder to make sure I’m not silent when hatred raises its ugly head, even in small ways. It is a tall order, but I’m going to try. And today, I mourn for people I never knew.