December 16, 2012

#PrayForNewtown - Trying to See The Light

I am so glad to be writing again.  Because there is inspiration and a need to speak, the think, to share everyday.  (Thanks to my mother, I'm somewhat of a serial sharer -- and the somewhat doesn't even belong in that sentence).

There are no words for yesterday's tragedy.  Just unthinkable.  But for the many times that this has happened.

I've turned to my friends and my community to try and help me understand.  What is wrong here?  What is going on?  Why is this type of mass scale gun violence in our schools unique to middle class suburban America?  This just doesn't seem to happen anywhere else.  And I just don't get it.

There will be discussions about gun control.  There will be discussions about security.  There will be discussions about caring for our mentally ill.

But now, at least for me, there is only deep sadness.  Pit in the stomach.  Tight hugs for my kids.  Tears.  And explaining and steadfastly believing that the good world we woke up to on yesterday morning did not transform into terror and evil during that Friday.  That its still good.  But that we have to work to make it so every day through our words, our actions, our relationships, and our character.

I went to synagogue this morning.  I want to share something from that service that speaks to me.  Now, I'm not usually an on-the-soapbox in-your-face with the religion type person.  I went to a religious high school, but I was the "come from public school kid;"  I'm conservative, not orthodox.  I consider myself to be spiritual as part of who I am, but as not outwardly devout or as observant as many.  To me, personally, religion is more about community and family and tradition and togetherness.

And this morning it was particularly wonderful being there in a community.  Focused on children.  And family.  And all that is good.  Sharing - without words - that for every parent, yesterday was amazingly difficult and emotional.

The week's reading included a verse of scripture that contained the words "Not by might.  And not by power.  But by spirit alone, shall we all live in peace."  The verse can be understood to mean that violence, fighting, and war are not the way . . . but human spirit - kindness, thoughtfulness, helping, understanding, reaching out across the divide - is what will get us to where we want to be.  (In my view, sometimes though, in this world, spirit alone is not enough.  And you also need might and power...)

The larger story I wanted to share from this morning comes from a very famous Rebbe, named Menachem Schneerson (The Lubavticher Rebbe).  It was written as a description of what it means to be a Jew, but I am going to take the liberty of paraphrasing, borrowing, and transposing to be about what it means to be a good person:

The student asked his teacher:  What does it mean to be a good person?

Teacher:  A good person is a streetlamp-lighter.  A streetlamp-lighter has a pole with fire.  He knows that the fire is not his own, and he goes around lighting all the lamps on his route.

Student:  But what if the lamp is in a desolate wilderness?

Teacher:  Then, still, one must light it.  Confront the wilderness and let the wilderness feel ashamed before the light.

Student:  But what if the lamp is in the middle of the deep oceans?

Teacher:  Then one must take off the clothes, jump into the freezing water.  And light it there.

Student:  And that is a good person?

Teacher:  Yes.  That is.

Student:  But Teacher.  I see no lamps.

Teacher:  That is because you are not yet a streetlamp-lighter.  To be one, you must cleanse yourself, become refined, so you can see the lamp in others.  The lamps are there, but they need to be lit.  Souls are in readiness to be lit.  Sometimes they are in front of our face.  Sometimes they are around the corner.  Sometimes they are in a wilderness, or at seas.  But there must be someone who rises above and goes out to put a light to these lamps.

(Shout out to Deborah, an inspirational person and fellow blogger, for telling this story with humor and beauty this morning, which allowed me to reflect and re-share it here).


Gourmet Jogger said...

Good story - "somewhat" similar to J.D. Salinger's catcher in the rye. If you recall, Holden Caulfield simply wanted to stand at the edge of a cliff and catch the children running through the head-high sedge.

Love to all, Warren

jackaw said...

Mike's family -- and mine by marriage to his 'Aunt Joyce' -- got together yesterday to listen to Mike's wife Ilena in concert and Mike's sister, Lisa, (later in the evening) singing.

Getting together is probably the most wondrous thing that we as a group do. We share our lives, our feelings -- our love for each other. It doesn't matter where we do this; it only matters that it happens.

So yesterday I learned that Ilena had picked up her kids from school and hugged them hard and talked to them of those who had been shot in Connecticut. I learned that Michael had been shocked by the violence and came home to be close to his kids and his wife and the next day closer to all of us. I listened and almost every conversation from afternoon to evening was threaded with the blood of those who had been killed.

But we were together. We laughed; we listened; we read and we spoke with all who came to share some part of the day. And that's what might stop more of the atrocities we perpetrate on each other: we all speak of our love; we all speak of our hopes; we all listen to each other reaching out to help.

It's a good family. Its instincts are sound and its values are exemplary. It knows how to love and it is teaching all around to love with them.

I hope that will help. I know of nothing else that will.

'Uncle Jack'

rabbifgr said...

Love you guys! Thank you for beings lights in our community and sharing your little lights--Jacob and Lauren--with all of us!