By Scott Gilpin*
The recent shootings in the United States and the massacre of innocents around the world are shocking. The root causes behind these tragedies appear insurmountable. When confronted with such horrific scenes, our fear and outrage fill voids in our understanding, and our imaginations often don't fill these voids with good thoughts. Terrorists, for instance, are counting on this very reaction from you and me.
May I suggest an answer that helped me?
Following my survival of the Westgate Mall massacre in Nairobi, I intrinsically knew my life had changed, that these murderers wounded me forever. I was so angry at these Muslim terrorists who were, in this case, from Somalia.
The next choices saved my life.
Not that anyone cared, but I didn't want to be an American running away when things became uncomfortable. Also, my father, a United Methodist minister, taught me to value every life. His benedictions often ended with, "Help us love Thee more and love one another more."
Ignoring my survival instinct, I cancelled my flights home and volunteered to work for the Kenya Red Cross at Uhuru Park during the Westgate Mall siege. In our collective grief and outrage, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Somali and Kenyan stood together. The tragedy unfolding before us stripped away differences in culture or religion and provided us the gift of a glimpse of how similar we are as children of God, of our common humanity. I saw how what divides us can be usurped by what brings us together.
Here is where reconciliation is crucial.
There is nothing like finding common ground between people and working together to fix the holes in our lives.
Get out and do something.
While, hopefully, your current situation is not as dramatic as mine was, how you respond to today's crises may very well be far more important. Your response may hold much more promise for impact than mine in Nairobi. So, turn off the incessant news coverage with its obnoxious "breaking news" scroll. Do not run away from the issues or the opportunity. Leave your comfort zone.
How you respond is crucial.
Your resolve to act is decisive in a life and death sort of way. Talk to another human being from a different faith. Listen to a person of another color, belief, or background. Together, get out and create something helpful and constructive. Shape your thinking and change your perspective as you help someone else change theirs.
I wrote the following prayer during the four-day Westgate siege. The dark column of smoke rising from the burning mall a mile away constantly reminded us that as we endeavored to collect blood in relative safety people were at that moment dying. I hope you find audacity, intrepidity, resolve, and comfort from my prayer.
Almighty God and Most Merciful Father,
Give me faith shining through my tears. Plant peace and hope within my heart. Provide me grace to forgive this hurt. Help me live my life worthily.
Direct us to do what is right for Jesus' sake and the sake of peace and good conscience. Make us bold enough to confront the face of evil and of wrong. Give each of us the strength and courage to be leaders in a Church, nation and world hungry for hope and leadership.
Help us love Thee more and love one another more. Amen.
*Scott Gilpin is the Executive Director of Fund Development for Discipleship Ministries of The United Methodist Church.