I’ve been busy running Project Bethlehem at Lazarus House Ministries in Lawrence, MA www.lazarushouse.org . This program serves 400 plus families in one of the poorest cities in MA by providing them Christmas gifts. Generous, caring donors from the area “adopt” these families, shop for them according to their Wish List and deliver wrapped gifts. We notify the families and they come to pick up the gifts.
In the midst of greeting our generous donors at the door, moving tons (literally) of packages and sending recipients off with huge smiles and grateful hearts, we learned of the tragedy in Newtown, CT: 18 children between the ages of 5 and 10 and 9 adults dead in an elementary school shooting. The 20 year old gunman killed his mother, went on this rampage, then killed himself.
I am baffled by what the human heart and mind is capable of: selfless generosity of literally hundreds of people who have responded with deep caring to the needs of families who are poor and the brutal killing of innocent children and adults by a single young man. I’m struggling to make sense of the extreme counterpoints these events reflect, a difficult task.
Why do these extremes exist? Why do so many people live without heat or in hotels because they lost their homes or struggle to provide for their children? Why are there homeless children-going to school with no coats, living in cars or couch surfing, or if they are lucky live in a shelter? Why do 4 million children work in sweatshops in India till they grow up or die? Why do men kill their classmates, kill their coworkers, kill innocent children or kill the “enemy?”
Why do people buy gifts for a family they will never know? Engage their friends, family and coworkers to do the same? Take time to provide a special something for a child who will never know them? What motivates a young child to raise thousands of dollars for a cause? Why do people work tirelessly to make the world a better place for their neighbors or for people they’ll never meet?
How can we care so deeply that it hurts and not care at all about the impact we have on others?
It is in the human heart to love deeply. It is also in the human heart to kill. We don’t have to physically kill, we can kill our own or another’s spirit with a glare, meanness, a dismissal. So, as we approach the darkest days of the year here in the Northern hemisphere and the beginning of the slow return to light may we use the upcoming Holidays as a time to ponder what motivates us, what we are capable of and take honest stock of all of it – the good, the bad, the ugly, the sublime.
And perhaps, as we shed light on our inner motivations and inventory all that lives in us we will give another human being the courage to do the same. And maybe, just maybe, our collective action to be honest about what lives in our hearts will pour compassion into a world in dire need of it right now.
I wish you the peace that emanates from being in integrity with who you truly are.
Questions to Ponder:
How do you experience love? What action do you take from love?
How do you experience hatred, anger, fear? What actions do you take from these emotions?
What if you saw that negative feelings are distortions of love? How would you treat yourself or others differently?