I think that most of us here in America have felt both numb and hopeful this past week. Numb with grief that we are facing yet another horrific aftermath of another horrific school shooting. But also hopeful that these brave young people are speaking out and being heard about the need for something, anything, to change.
Although I am deeply encouraged by these young people, nonetheless I am finding it hard to muster up much joy this week, let alone write about it. In every conversation I have with my fellow adults, none of us know what to do or say or hope. We filter every idea through the lens of history and wonder whether anything will ever change. But underneath all the voices in my head screaming out doubt and fear, there is a glimmer of light
This week I have been "living" on a street where I spent large portions of my teenage years. The very very nice expensive houses that used to be on this street have mostly been demolished -- and in their place new even nicer more expensive houses are being constructed. As I walk my dog up the hill, I stop at some of the empty lots and look at the panoramic view of the Los Angeles basin. Same view as I looked at growing up -- except you can see it now, because the smog that used to smother the view is mostly gone. Some days you can see all the way to Catalina Island. Things have changed.
Being here in my hometown is helping me remember who I was when I was in high school. It is helping me remember what I believed to be possible when I was a young person speaking out for change. When I believed that change was possible. When I believed that rallying and working for nuclear disarmament and later to dismantle Apartheid would make a difference.
The smog, nuclear proliferation, Apartheid -- our voices affected change.. Not enough perhaps -- and in so many areas we seem to be going backwards. But change happened. Our voices did make a difference.
Everyone is pointing fingers these days. Everyone is finding their version of the problem. The problem I see among many of my friends is unbelief.
I grew up Christian, and read the New Testament stories so often that many of them still live on in my mind and heart. In one story, the father of a boy who has been afflicted since childhood with a violent mental illness, comes to Jesus and begs for his compassion in healing his son. He says, "If you can do anything, have compassion and help us."
Jesus echoes the father's words right back to him, "If you can do anything? Everything is possible to one who believes."
To which the father cries out, "I believe! Please help my unbelief!"
Even as a little girl, that sentence hit me in the gut. Because I did believe. I believed that hope and healing and love and change and progress were possible. Until I didn't. And then I got stuck in the swamps of my unbelief -- and wallowed there in misery with no idea how to get out. I often felt like my soul was crying out to anyone who could hear me: Please help my unbelief!
I feel that way now. I DO believe. I believe in the Power of Love. I believe in the voices of these young children and the adults who will be their advocates. I believe that fundamentally we all want safety for our children and healing for one other and for this world. But then we all get so stuck in all the reasons why this or that won't work or why someone else it to blame or why an organization has so much power. And there we are, wallowing in the swamps of our unbelief. So many of us are crying out: Please help our unbelief!
Enter the children to lead us. The children whom we, the adults, should be keeping safe. Those same children, galvanized into action by watching their friends and teachers die in yet another senseless act of violence. Those children are also crying: Please help our unbelief!
But when they realize that we adults aren't listening -- because weare too busy replaying our history, rationalizing, dividing, politicizing -- they realize that they have a choice. They can wallow or wait like we do. Or they choose to believe in something -- in anything. And so they do believe. They believe in themselves and in the power of good and in the love they feel for those they have lost. And so they believe in change.
This week it is those children who have helped heal my unbelief. It is those children who have helped so many of us stop feeling hopeless and want to stop wallowing and start helping and healing. It is those children who are giving us hope.
And so today I say, I do believe. And from that place of belief, may I be led to know the ways to act for change. May I help bring the children of the world hope, even as they have helped me. May I become a place of safety and healing for the world.
May we all rise up to serve them -- this younger generation who can help all of our unbelief become the change we wish to be in this fractured world.
May it be so.