As I drove to church early in the morning on Sunday I listened to the father of a seven year old girl killed in the Connecticut shooting. His voice broke as he spoke and he described his last words to his daughter on Friday morning. They were in Portuguese because he was teaching her the language. Something about the detail of a father teaching his child a new language grabbed me in the gut. I felt overwhelmed, and my mind raced around the facts of the case I knew. All weekend I'd scanned news outlets trying to understand and had followed intently the ever changing facts of the case.
I arrived at my church, Christ Church Ithan, in Villanova, and from the start the service was different than usual. We started in silence and we prayed. We prayed for everyone involved in the shooting and we prayed for our national leaders as they wrestle with how our country can address violence. Instead of standing at the pulpit, our minister, Kevin Moroney, stood among us in the front aisle of the church. He'd scrapped his planned sermon and spoke with us about the shooting. He began by saying he had no simple answers. He did know, however, that as christians our choice is to respond to darkness with light; to evil with love. He encouraged us by saying that if the news reports were too upsetting, then turn off the television and pray for those effected instead. He asked us to consider finding a stranger and doing something kind for them. He asked us to take an action step and suggested writing a letter to one of our elected leaders. There was much more to Kevin's sermon than I can describe but the take away for me was simple: stop focusing on the evil and express love.
I followed Kevin's advice and the rest of the day I continued to feel sad, but not so tense. When I handed the 20 something young man at the Acme working at the cash register a small gift his face turned maroon. He looked puzzled and I told him I knew he worked hard and I hoped he would enjoy the rest of his day. He broke out in a large grin. He may have felt a bit embarrassed and I was as well, but it felt so good. I felt some healing and even a bit of hope. Today I called the White House and left a message for President Obama and this evening I will explore Charity Navigator in an effort to support an organization that works for people who suffer from mental illness.