When we grieve, especially in a traumatic situation, it’s essential to know that we are not alone. One of the young people administering first aid on the Danforth on Sunday evening told the young woman he was comforting to “Stay with us.” The words are familiar and there is a depth to them. “Stay with us, you may be a stranger to me but you are part of a community, part of ‘us’.”
On the bus yesterday a fight broke out between two young men. It was quickly settled by a fellow passenger, a construction worker who was twice the size of both, who encouraged them to stand down. It was a well-resolved moment, but I caught the look of fear in the eyes of one young woman. Although a few rows away from the short-lived shoving match, she cringed away. Was she fearful that in a city where inexplicable gunfire happens that the violence might reach out to her on her bus? I wanted to ask but the moment passed when everyone dove into the cellphones.
At an appropriate loss for words, politicians tweeted that their thoughts and prayers were with the families of the victims and the reeling people of the neighbourhood.
What will they say next? Will they parse carefully their words so as to make no promises and offend no constituents?
I hope they keep praying, and I hope they keep thinking. Thinking about the long-view. Thinking about how shocked the City is when this happens on the Danforth but not so much in a neighbourhood with economic challenges, a neighbourhood with more poverty. Will they take the long view and reduce gun-violence by providing better, more affordable housing, better education, better mental health support systems? Or is it sufficient to put 200 more law enforcement officers on the streets for a few months and pay for it by finding new efficiencies.
As far as I can tell Jesus never referred to someone else as his enemy, a person who would make him fearful out of their outright malice. The New Testament identifies certain people as his enemies, but that’s not a term he uses of them. He did talk to his followers about their sense of compassion for others whom they found it easy to love, with whom they easily identified. Then he asked “What do you do that is more than loving the people it’s easy to love?” Jesus told his followers to love their enemies.
Thoughts and prayers have their own value, and we can be grateful recipients. Do they extend beyond to do difficult work with difficult people? To do the hard work of long-term change?