again and again, our hearts shattered by the echo of the gunshot
the morning light spilled across the front pages, across faces bowed and streaked in tears. it didn’t take long till my own tears were added to the morning’s misery. a “lone wolf,” a man who sat for an hour near a pastor leading bible study, in a historic charleston, south carolina church, pulled out a pistol, and, one by one, took aim and fired, riddled the prayerful, felled nine lives, including the church pastor, a revered state senator.
i’d come downstairs in this quiet old house to write of something else, but i picked up the news pages off the stoop, and there it was in all three papers: “deadly church attack;” “scene of carnage has long history of pain, pride and dignity;” “loner held in church killings.” sadly, only in chicago was the story “below the fold,” meaning it got second billing to something else, and in this case the “else” was a silver trophy for men in ice skates.
because i’ve spent more time away from screens in recent days, i’d not heard the news in the wake of its happening. i found out the old-fashioned way: reading the news after it had been gathered, laid out, printed and delivered to my door step. it hit me no less hard for the time delay between occurrence and finding out. in fact, it might have hit me harder, for i absorbed it in the sacred silent cloak of dawn. alone in my kitchen, i pored over the images, the words.
once again, our hearts are shattered by the ravages of mad folk and guns fired.
once again, my first response was to shudder, to find myself in goosebumps, followed swiftly by fury, followed by the image of a single candle flame burning in the dark: we can only light this world, we can only trigger change, by living each and every act of each and every day with as much deep down love, as much empathy towards whomever is in our path, as we can possibly muster.
that the echo of the gunshot rang out and ricocheted off the walls of a historic black church, a church with deepest roots in the march for justice that is the civil rights movement in america, only sickens me more.
i turn back to the image of the woman whose face is streaked in tears.
sometimes in the wake of awfulness like this, i feel the urge to take my children by the hand and huddle with my arms round their shoulders, to keep them safe in a world where the walls between sanity and insanity feel too permeable. where i don’t know who will barge into my grocery store or my children’s school, or my synagogue, for God’s sake, or my church, and ignite the ugliness, the horror.
mostly, i shake that off, and inhale a second breath, one that grounds me more firmly than ever, one that roots me in the deepest conviction and takes me back to the words of my beloved dorothy day: “little by little;” it is only through our little acts of courage, our little acts of love that we stand half a chance of mounting forces that might wither the ugliness, the horror, that intends to roll our way.
on the days when the world’s news rattles me, and it rattles me often, i am left with so very little in my counter-campaign. i have a heart, and i have words. i have imagination, too, thank God. and in my imagination right now, i am traveling to the side of the woman streaked in tears. i am holding her hand, and wrapping my arm around her shoulder. i am dabbing her tears, and i am breathing a promise: i will love more wildly today. i will scatter seeds of all that is good and gentle and heart-opening. yes, even here at my old kitchen table. i will start with love, the fiercest force i know. the one that, like a bullet, can penetrate the heart. can open it. can settle in and make for a peaceable kingdom after all.
where will you begin?
as is so often the case, i find my morning post from the writer’s almanac to be balm to a wound, answer to a prayer. this morning’s post, which i saw just now, is the perfect eloquence to take my fumbled words above to a higher deeper plane. margaret walker, bless her, speaks volumes:
Poem of the Day: For My People
BY MARGARET WALKER
For my people everywhere singing their slave songs
repeatedly: their dirges and their ditties and their blues
and jubilees, praying their prayers nightly to an
unknown god, bending their knees humbly to an
For my people lending their strength to the years, to the
gone years and the now years and the maybe years,
washing ironing cooking scrubbing sewing mending
hoeing plowing digging planting pruning patching
dragging along never gaining never reaping never
knowing and never understanding;
For my playmates in the clay and dust and sand of Alabama
backyards playing baptizing and preaching and doctor
and jail and soldier and school and mama and cooking
and playhouse and concert and store and hair and
Miss Choomby and company;
For the cramped bewildered years we went to school to learn
to know the reasons why and the answers to and the
people who and the places where and the days when, in
memory of the bitter hours when we discovered we
were black and poor and small and different and nobody
cared and nobody wondered and nobody understood;
For the boys and girls who grew in spite of these things to
be man and woman, to laugh and dance and sing and
play and drink their wine and religion and success, to
marry their playmates and bear children and then die
of consumption and anemia and lynching;
For my people thronging 47th Street in Chicago and Lenox
Avenue in New York and Rampart Street in New
Orleans, lost disinherited dispossessed and happy
people filling the cabarets and taverns and other
people’s pockets and needing bread and shoes and milk and
land and money and something—something all our own;
For my people walking blindly spreading joy, losing time
being lazy, sleeping when hungry, shouting when
burdened, drinking when hopeless, tied, and shackled
and tangled among ourselves by the unseen creatures
who tower over us omnisciently and laugh;
For my people blundering and groping and floundering in
the dark of churches and schools and clubs
and societies, associations and councils and committees and
conventions, distressed and disturbed and deceived and
devoured by money-hungry glory-craving leeches,
preyed on by facile force of state and fad and novelty, by
false prophet and holy believer;
For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way
from confusion, from hypocrisy and misunderstanding,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless generations;
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs
be written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
rise and take control.
Margaret Walker, “For My People” from This is My Century: New and Collected Poems. Copyright © 1989 by Margaret Walker. Reprinted by permission of University of Georgia Press.
bam, you have said so much of what my heart has been pouring out but has been unable to speak. The flood of hate in our world seems to be unstaunchable, but we have to keep trying, or all is lost. Your question, “Where will you begin?” leaves me helpless. I will pray. I will love those around me best as I can. I will add my voice to support justice and comfort and peace. It feels like a teaspoon in the flood. Sickened and heartbroken.
my teaspoon too feels so very thin. but where else can we begin? what can matter more than resolve to live in a forcefield of love, unwilling to stand for ANY injustice. it’s the closest-to-home that we can most hope to change. on mornings like this, i wish i could climb to the mountain top and rattle the world. here’s where i leap into the arms and the heart of God, and promise to hold up all my ends of the mission…..
it seems these days, too many children are left with an un-reciprocated need to get some kind of attention, as there is none or has possibly never been any in their environment. they turn in love, as all children will- for leadership, attention, affirmation…and all too often they find hate disguised as love in these groups that take them in and use them like weapons of mass destruction. my heart is coming apart at the seams first- for those praying folks who took this young man in, without question, in unconditional love and he did not, could not recognize it- woe to the world if this is how our children perceive hatred in skin color- and love in violence.
we must gather our hearts again and again, pray, pray- teach our children well, let those who love by hate see- they do not nor will they ever diminish love for all in this world, no matter the injury, no matter the senseless act, we must rise as triumphant today as ever ,our brothers and sisters in charleston need us to take up their loving cause until they can do so again…and again.
i hope love echoes, i hope love deafens, i hope love raises you me and everyone we know in strength so that we might help to bear the unbearable for charleston.
oh my beloved terry, true wonder! your roar is heard at the mountain tops and in the valleys. my heart too comes apart at the seams. i love your declaration of love. love you. xoxo
Thank you for your thoughtful writing–touches my heart and brings me to tears.
“i will love more wildly today. i will scatter seeds of all that is good and gentle and heart-opening. . . . i will start with love, the fiercest force i know.”
big giant hug, my wild-hearted sweet and gentle friend…..if we all join forces our wild hearts might make a dent….we can only pray.
It’s the same everywhere, even here in our own country. the Philippines. Gunshots shatter the lives of innocent people. I am with you in doing more to spread kindness as an antidote to the pain…if there can be any antidote at all…
if we ring the planet in love — in wild, no-bounds love — perhaps we can begin to make a dent……
the folks at the church in charleston are teaching us how it might be done……bless you, rosanna…..
Reblogged this on Writing on the Pages of Life and commented:
In memory of the nine people who lost their lives when “a ‘lone wolf,’ a man who sat for an hour near a pastor leading bible study, in a historic Charleston, South Carolina church, pulled out a pistol, and, one by one, took aim and fired, riddled the prayerful, felled nine lives…”
I’ve had a weekend to try to process it, and I hope and pray that I can show the kind of forgiveness that the victims’ families did at the bond hearing and the fortitude the church’s congregation showed at services yesterday and the faith that somehow gets them through.
Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. The most we can do it try to spread kindness each day through our own small efforts and pray others will too.