One of the things I hate most about the days after a tragic event like the shooting in Charleston this week is the focus being placed on the perpetrator while the victims become a footnote. Nine gentle souls lost their lives when a shitstorm of issues like mental illness, racial tension, drug abuse and access to weapons came together in one damaged man. We can not and should not attempt to simplify and make this about race or gun control or the Confederate flag or any single issue. No one would be served, especially not the men and women who died.
Going out on a limb here, but I also believe the question is not ‘Why did this happen?’, but ‘why doesn’t this happen more often?’ There are people all around us struggling with these issues. What is keeping them from colliding into violence more often? What are we doing right in most of our communities? How can we create healthier connections, more resilience, better beliefs about ourselves and others?
A group of men and women gathered to pray and worship together and invited a stranger into their sanctuary. My fear is that fear takes root and that strangers are emotionally locked out of our communities and our hearts. We can’t let fear or suspicion keep us from welcoming someone who is different, needy, hurting. and maybe even dangerous. I wonder if the men and women in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church that day would do anything differently? I doubt it. And their loving vulnerability is a legacy for us all.