I’m asking for a favor. Really. You. If you are reading these words, then I’m talking to you.
This has been a raw week. A raw week for my family. A raw week for this country. A raw week for this world. I need a break. I am begging you, if you are reading this – be part of what is good, do not participate in what is hateful. If you hear yourself start to use blame or shame or rage or stereotyping against someone – even yourself – please, stop. If you hear someone around you doing it, stop it. No, “Those Muslims” or “that Obama administration or “those Republicans” or gun-toters or granolas. No “lazy” or “stupid” or putting someone down in front of other people. No gossiping or bad-mouthing. No bending tender necks in shame under the heat of your wrath. Stop. I need a break. We all need a break.
If you find yourself irritated by some older person walking too slowly in front of you, imagine what it must feel like when each step is painful. When your toddler yanks off his shoes for the umpteenth time when you are running late, imagine what it must feel like to have zero control over your world. When you get impatient with a student who hasn’t done his homework, reach down and say, “Let’s do it together, now. I’ll help you.” When you see the face of someone who has committed an atrocity, remember that he (or she) was a baby once, and probably has at least one person in his life who is also devastated. When you feel justified in your lecturing or preaching down to people you feel superior to, remember what it felt like the last time someone made you feel small. When you feel numb from all of the violence, be the one to reach out in peace rather than hatred and blame. When you start to forget because the news cycle has moved on, remember that there are still families for whom the grieving is new, who haven’t moved on. When you think you have it the worst, remember that the people in the house next to yours probably have a very hard story you haven’t heard yet because we’re all trying to look perfect. When you know someone is going through something tragic and frightening and isolating, be the one to take over a plate of dinner and a hug. Reach out. Give the benefit of the doubt. Help.
I’m begging this of you, because this week I cannot stop crying. I’m begging you this not because I expect to change the world – the readership of this blog is hardly influential in size. I’m begging you this because we have to start somewhere. We have to stop it all somewhere. It’s you. It’s me. That’s all there is.
One more favor, and this one is from you, God. Without you, it all flies apart. We need you, and we know that. But from the rest of it, we need a breath.
Heaven and Earth
“And there was silence in Heaven for the space of half an hour”
GOD, who with thunders and great voices kept
Beneath Thy throne, and stars most silver-paced
Along the inferior gyres, and open-faced
Melodious angels round,—canst intercept
Music with music,—yet, at will, has swept
All back, all back, (said he in Patmos placed)
To fill the heavens with silence of the waste
Which lasted half-an-hour! Lo I, who have wept
All day and night, beseech Thee by my tears,
And by that dread response of curse and groan
Men alternate across these hemispheres,
Vouchsafe us such a half-hour’s hush alone,
In compensation for our stormy years!
As heaven has paused from song, let earth from moan.
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning