I have three distinct things swirling through my heart and mind right now. And there is a thread linking them--even if thin. Lately, I find that the thin threads are the only ones I have--and they are enough.
Of course. At youth group last night we talked a lot--in both of our groups--about not just Japan, but how this experience of tradgedy and loss and "big" disaster impacts us. These were rich conversations--focusing on how hard it is to locate and make sense of news like this, and yet how personal it is; how it seems to connect us to others. Nearly instantly. We talked of sympathy, and the risk of empathy, and the choice of compassion. It was moving to hear kids talk about empathy, and share their knowledge of how the pain of another leaves marks within us. So we often turn away in in a kind of fear and self-protection. Compassion then becomes the choice not to turn. Not to get numb. We finished the evening by gathering in a circle in the sanctuary, and literally learning steps to create more room for compassion within us. That's the key--to make room; to grow the compassion within us. One 13 year old boy simply said: "When I hear stories like these that make me feel helpless, I just try to love more, right in my present life." Indeed. And to those words of wisdom I would only add this link to some words from Jim Wallis. He said all that I believe.
Secondly, giving money to support relief efforts.
Yes, as you can guess, I've had lots of conversations about this over the last few days. It's good to know that our Outreach Group at Grace took this to heart and has already made money available from our Outreach budget to support rescue and relief in Japan. People have asked me to advise them about the best ways to channel money for direct action, and whether or not Grace should be raising money for this. In some ways I think my answers have been surprising. To be honest, I don't often rush to donate in response to tradgedies like this earthquake. Instead, I make it a habit of giving regularly to relief organizations that I know do good work, day in and day out. Giving that way helps me know that I'm providing some small base for these groups to stage from, no matter where or when the next need arises. It's a practice that helps me stay aware of needs in a way that is more than reactive. So, I give to Episcopal Relief and Development and One Day‚€™s Wages. And often to Mercy Corps as well. My simple advice? Do your research and give proactively, not reactively.
Lastly, being together.
I notice the anxiety and confusion many people often feel when we come face to face with our mysterious fragility as we live life on this shrinking globe. I see it even in grocery stores and coffee shops. We carry grief, or worry, and we start tensing up, waiting for what's next--and in doing so we end up disconnecting from each other. I have only two antidotes: I pray, and I try to put myself in community. And I pray in community. I thought about this on Tuesday night as we gathered for the first of our Lenten evenings. Dinner was good; the various groups seemed lively; young kids were engaged; and then we gathered in the candle-lit sanctuary. We sang quietly, softly, giving voice to a prayer. We listened and prayed--and then we were done. But we were "better" for having been together. So join in as you feel nudged. Say yes to your need to gather and pray. It matters--and our compassion will grow, and fear will diminish. It will.