Our People

I am a bad church goer. I’d like to blame the kids. And sometimes I can. There are many athletic events scheduled on Sunday mornings. And our church holds just one service each week. The sports occasionally fall at this same time, and although I know I am not setting a very good example by allowing playing games to take precedence over feeding souls, I do it anyway.

Then there are the times that I simply do not have the energy to fight with three late-sleeping teenagers. All week long I nag them to get out of bed and brush their teeth. It’s nice to take Sunday off.

But if I am to be completely honest, it is deliciously decadent to sometimes spend a Sunday morning lying around, drinking too much coffee and reading the news. Well, mostly Facebook news. I am not proud. But truthful.

When the horrific acts of 9/11 occurred, I was thankful that I did not have a child old enough to question exactly what had happened. And why. The tragedy was so overwhelming; I focused all of my energy on my children. On loving them and being thankful for them and keeping them out of danger. I thought of nothing for several weeks but what they meant to my life. My husband reacted similarly. On September 12, he quit his job. He was unhappy in it and did not want to feel that way for one more day. It was selfish, maybe, but also comforting, to look inward, to think about our own people. Our own happiness. Our own safety.

And then: Paris.

We don’t know anyone there. The boys have never been. Our oldest hated every single French class he ever attended. I can’t imagine even one boy eating escargot. They don’t like museums. Or fancy restaurants. Or sight seeing. There is no football in Paris.

The youngest asks if it could happen here. If they could get to us. Yes, I answer. Maybe.

He is 13. I cannot comfort him with lies. I cannot comfort him at all. He wants to know if we can kill them. Kill all of them. That will make them stop, he says. I don’t think so, I tell him. You cannot kill evil by becoming evil. It cannot be. But I don’t know what I am saying, really. I want to kill them. I want to place all of the badness on an island and then blow it up. This is what I want. But it is silly, I know. It is not right.

We go to church on Sunday. The Sunday after Paris. No one argues. Well, the oldest sleeps. But the younger two. They come. They don’t object.

It is soothing. To be there. To be surrounded by good people. These people. These church goers. They would love a terrorist until the pain in his heart is no longer. They are people who forgive first and ask later. I am not yet one of these people. But I try. So hard.

The sermon is beautiful, compassionate. The minister encourages us to reach out. To those who are hurting. To those who are fearful. To those who carry anger inside.

His sermon reminds me of a similar event. The boys and I volunteer to serve a community meal — The Bread of Life: a meal prepared by church members for those less fortunate. We go once each month, most of the time. Except when sports interfere.

It is at Bread of Life that I tell a funny story to a fellow volunteer, a church member. I tell her that my son has seen one of the homeless men who attends the community meals. He sees the man on the street in our town. When he does, he exclaims, “There is one of our people!”

I laugh at this cute story, when I tell it to my friend. I laugh because my son sees a homeless man and calls him one of our people. I am warmed by it, that he has recognized this man, this soul, from the dinners we serve. But I am also humored. That he thinks a homeless man is one of his. One of ours.

“They are all our people. He is right,” says my friend, my church-going friend. And, yes. She is right.

I cannot protect my son from his fears. I cannot protect him from bad things.

But together we can work to see these people, all of these people, as our people. Not just the Parisians, with their fancy restaurants and escargot. But the homeless man who needs a meal. The refugees who need a home, who need to be scared no more. Or the child who comes to school, looking different, sounding different. And also the people who strap bombs to their bodies and take many lives, their own lives, too. The people who seem to have so little to live for. Those people are ours, too.

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