Grief and Pain

candleGrief. Pain. Loss.Tragedy.

What else can you say when you learn of a mass shooting that takes the lives of 20 innocent children.

This happening just two days after our news was filled with another horrific story of a shooting here in my own Oregon community at a local mall.

The whole situation makes people feel completely hopeless. After posting their sympathy on FB they think what can I really do?  And yet we are not hopeless. We have every ability to speak up and take action. In taking those actions we make a difference. Moved by the Virginia Tech shootings and worried that the world we lived in was not a place he liked, my colleague Bob bought a bus and took his dog Bogard and started out to spread kindness through One Millions Acts of Kindness. He is making a difference everyday in the world, with every action he takes.

After the Columbine shootings, Rachel Joy Scott’s family discovered her journals about kindness and began an organization called Rachel’s Challenge that has touched the lives of more than 18 million people. Taking action made a difference.

Yesterday, I learned from a friend that she and her 11-year-old daughter spent her birthday on December 12th giving out pizza to homeless men and women in our community. She sent me some of her thoughts on the day,

“Mary walked over holding her pizza and water and I had a handful of gloves she had been collecting for this day. The moment we approached the shelter we were greeted with “Hello”. I said, “Hi, this is my daughter Mary. It’s her birthday today and to celebrate she would like to share pizza and water with you.” We received such gratitude for this. There were three people and they all told Mary “Happy Birthday” and “Thank you” and told her how kind and thoughtful she was.

From there we drove into downtown, which was a different experience. We spent the next hour and half driving around finding one homeless person at a time and offering them pizza and water. On almost every occasion the gratitude was overwhelming. One man even offered us some of his potato chips…At times we both had to choke back the tears. It was so touching for me as a mother to hear my daughter’s sweet voice say, “Hi, my name is Mary. It’s my birthday and I’d like to share pizza and water with you.

We seem to live in an era when people are just too busy to even notice what they have or what others do for them. Gone is the day of the Thank You Card much less a simple “Thank You”. I’ve gone to countless bridal showers, weddings, and baby showers where I never received a card afterwards. This continues to astonish me. I set out on this day thinking that the lesson here was how fortunate we are to have what we do, but I went away with another lesson I wasn’t expecting: These people that we encountered that day, that had nothing of material value, still had something that many of us do not, gratitude. What a gift.”

What actions do you take each and every day to pay attention and be engaged with others. Perhaps these horrible events will invoke something in you that needs to be addressed. It starts with the small things like gratitude and kindness, but maybe it will take hold in some larger way as well. I keep thinking about the “sick perpetrators” of these crimes and wonder if anyone had reached out to them could it have made a difference? Clearly they were suffering and now their suffering has made many others suffer as well.

None of us needs to feel paralyzed in our world. Our actions big and small matter and we have the choice to look the other way or do something to make a difference. I want to share a beautiful poem that my friend Eric wrote a few days ago after the Oregon mall shooting. I think it reiterates perfectly that none of us can look the other way anymore. Something is broken in our world and needs addressing. It starts with each of us acknowledging each other, being in action to make a difference in whatever way we can and help repair our world.

This week we have lost more than three dozen innocent people due to senseless acts of violence. It’s enough. Listen to your heart and take whatever actions you feel needs to be taken to help repair the world.

I am lighting an extra Shabbat candle tonight in memory of dozens of souls that can no longer see a candle burning and committing to continuing to share about mitzvahs in hopes of doing what I can to repair our world.


A birthday and a Yartzeit

IMG_1060Quick post for the day.  I am enjoying the calm as I await the weekend and the thought of 10 12-year-old boys descending on our house for a sleepover to celebrate my son’s 12th birthday. As I am preparing, I start reflecting as I am reminded that this is also the anniversary of my father’s death. It will be 6 years ago tomorrow December 1st that my father passed away. I have mentioned in years past that many Jews observe the death of a loved one on the Yartzeit date which fluctuates from year to year.

When my father first died, a colleague told me it was a blessing that he had passed away on my son’s birthday. As the years have passed, I have come to realize that I believe this sentiment is true. Time eases grief in many ways but so do new memories and journeys and the lessons we must all take away and learn from loss.

Perhaps, I think about my father less these days than in the initial days after his death but he is still part of my psyche encouraging me and cheering me on in my life, even if it is only through my mind when I get quiet. My birthday present to my son this year is the knowledge that he is loved, encouraged and supported as well as he celebrates another year of growth and maturity.

Happy Birthday Solomon! Dad, you are gone but not forgotten.