Last night your city changed. I don’t know how you got the news or when you got the news but one minute you were getting ready for bed, or watching 30 Rock reruns or getting ready for a Thursday night ladies night at your favorite hang out and your city changed. Evil paid a visit. It came like a thief in the night and stole your sense of security or peace. However frail it might have been the day before, you still had a belief that you were safe in your city. But now it all feels different. It feels surreal. It feels like this can’t possibly be happening in your city. #DallasStrong was never supposed to happen. You were supposed to escape this crazy world of guns and fear. This is the kind of thing that happens “out there”.
The next few days and weeks will have you reeling. The rest of the world, the ones who haven’t had to be strong yet, they will bombard you with their well intentioned opinions and rants. Be kind but firm with them. They don’t know that you haven’t reached the infuriated stage of grief yet. They don’t realize that in the wake of tragedies such as these all you can feel is the overwhelming sense of loss and sadness that can only be experienced when you live through it. They have wise words and they have words that you, your city and the rest of the world need to hear, but you can’t hear them quite yet and that’s ok. Just be sad for a while.
You might be surprised at how long you will feel sad. It will hit you every time you have to change your driving route because of roads that are still crime scenes. It will hit you as the stories come out. The stories of heroism, the stories of tragedy, the stories of families that are no longer complete. Each sign you see proclaiming your city’s strength will remind you of why you are having to be so strong. Wave after wave of sadness will hit. It will feel like you can’t breathe sometimes and the crazy thing is, for most of you, you weren’t even there. You were never in danger. For a lot of you, you don’t even know anyone who was there or who is laying in a hospital bed fighting for their life, but it feels personal somehow. It happened in your city. You have walked past or parked in that parking garage. The street signs and landmarks that are now the backgrounds of the CNN reports are familiar to you and it makes no sense to you that they are now seen by the whole world. Your city, no matter how sprawling of a metropolis it might have seemed to you yesterday, is now very very tiny and you are now realizing how connected your community really is.
Don’t lose hope. Your city is strong and not because it has to be now but because it was meant to be. For those of you who need action, there is plenty to take. Listen to your mayor and your city officials. They will tell you what the city needs. Give blood. Attend vigils. Lay flowers at memorials for people you never actually laid eyes on. Churches, open your doors and let down your walls. Walk into spaces and events that make you feel a little bit uncomfortable. Grieve with those who grieve, because that shadowy feeling you feel all day long, that is you grieving too. You are among those who grieve now.
Pray for your city and with a fervor that extends beyond a hashtag. God has not forgotten your city. He is mourning with you and His heart is heavy for His children. Pray for peace and be peacemakers. Cross the railroad tracks and ask how you can help. Listen a whole lot and don’t worry when you don’t have any answers. The problems that divide us and that fear preys upon won’t be solved with one conversation but the solution begins with listening to one another one conversation at a time.
Know that, sadly, you are not alone. The number of people who can now put words to the grief that you are now feeling grows each day. Rather than shaking our heads in disbelief that it happened once again, let’s unite together under the banner of those who have felt great loss and will conversely find huge victories in future wins.
I am so sorry that your city changed last night. I wish to God that yours is the last one that does. Lord, hear our prayers.
Orlando…Boston…Paris…Charleston…Sandy Hook…Turkey…New York…