Image: Nurture Love by Eddy Sara. Used by kind permission of the artist.
Many of you know that I live in Texas, and so not very far away from the horrible tragedy that took place in Uvalde this week when a gunman attacked an elementary school. I, like you, am horrified and grief filled.
This shooting – a mere ten days after the horrible shooting in a grocery store in Buffalo – and on top of the ongoing wars in the Ukraine and Ethiopia – may fill your heart with grief and anger.
There is something within us that rises to protect and honor life, and that mourns and rages when our grandmothers and children – when anyone – is violently killed.
Sufi teacher Pir Zia Inayat Khan said it like this: “All of humanity is killed with each killing. May not another life be lost!”
I do not have words for the horror and the heartbreak other than to honor the grief – and to honor the ways we feel moved to care for and protect each other.
I think one of the hardest things about the horror of war and violence is the helplessness we can feel. So as we weep with those who mourn, we can also offer our hearts and hands to presence love in the world.
This week I spent some time researching how we can support our neighbors in Buffalo and Uvalde and found some places where you can offer financial support. If you feel moved to do so, you can go here to support our Buffalo families and go here to support our Uvalde families.
We can also offer support through our daily lives, in the many ways we feel moved to care for our neighbors – both known and unknown – in our cities and communities.
A few years ago, I was traveling from Austin to Canada for a week long school when my flights were delayed. I ended up getting into Ottawa at midnight – just as the rental car counter was closing for the day – and wasn’t able to drive the remaining two hours to my destination.
Earlier that afternoon, when I’d texted my teacher Nathalie from the airport to fill her in on my delays, she suggested I reach out to some alumni of my school who lived in Ottawa for a place to stay. She gave me a few names and numbers of people unknown to me, but known to her.
One woman lived near the airport and immediately said yes when I asked if I could stay with her.
She wasn’t home, she explained, as she herself was out of town. But she told me where to find the spare key on the porch, encouraged me to let myself in and make myself at home, and told me to stay as long as I needed.
I was struck by her hospitality and her trust – here she was letting a stranger into her home, and when she wasn’t even there!
And then I was a little overwhelmed – I felt a little uncomfortable with her generosity.
An impulse flitted through my mind: I could tell her I was fine, and then pay the money and stay in a hotel.
Yes, it would be much less vulnerable. I wouldn’t have to face the depth of her generosity or my shyness.
And yet I sensed how much I needed to receive what she was offering and to allow myself to be humble, to allow her to be my elder and to teach me something that I needed to learn.
When I got to her home in the wee hours of the morning, the guest room was prepared as if she were already expecting an overnight guest. The two beds were made with clean sheets, pillows, and extra blankets. There was a stack of towels and washcloths, clean and ready to be used. An alarm clock, table and lamp were thoughtfully next to the bed.
How did she know I’d be coming?
The discomfort gave way to humility, and then to awe.
What kind of person leaves their spare room set up, prepared, open and welcoming to any stranger who might need shelter, even if they’re not themselves home?
Who lives with such generosity of spirit?
I am so grateful that she has given me a lived, living example of what it means to ‘see no stranger,’ as activist Valerie Kaur writes, welcoming all.
There is something that dies in us – and that is also born – when we open ourselves to receive from others in our time of need. And there is something that is born in us when it’s our turn to offer care.
In our connection with each other, we are asked to die often, so our hearts can widen and deepen, where the heartbreak and gifts of life are shared by all.
Now that we have this beautiful woman’s example, we know how to do it, too.
May we all find ways to offer hospitality and care to a world so in need of shelter. In the words of Mother Teresa, may we all remember, once again, how – and that we – belong to one another.