By Dennis Cole, July 22, 2012
Have you ever been moving along in the spirit of Louis Armstrong..."bright blessed day dark, sacred night"...and suddenly some bad news....sad tragic...awful. I am sorry for those moments for you. Some times that is all one can say "I am really sorry, when I heard the news...... I was devastated with disappointment. Is there anything I can do?"
I was whistling down the hallways cooridor of Rye High School in the Jr High section as I so often did in those days. The year 1963, the month November. I might have been singing. Suddenly there was some stirring I heard a squeal, an awful sound of pain. It came from a student. Was she crying, I thought. I remember going into my final class 8th period. I do not remember what it was, only that we had a substitute that day. There was a buzz of information. The President has been shot. What does that mean to a 9th grader? Truly I do not remember how I felt... only that I remember that day so very well. For a long time I would gauge one’s age based on BK or AK, that is before the Kennedy assasination or after. To me to this day, those born after the assasination seem much younger and much more fortunate. Our substitute surely must have been stressed, because he talked on and on about ...trying to console and reconcile but without a meaningful vehicle for doing so. A call to prayer? Words of wisdom or consolation? Prayers were banned from public schools the year before ...did that effect consolation? Interesting thought. Mercifully...finally Mrs. Emma Jean Brown our principal interupted his droning speech...." at so and so time our President John Kennedy was assinated in Dallas.... please go to your homes now ....school is dismissed"
Funny I should think about Rye, it just so happens I was in Rye NY just a couple of acting weekends ago. I was visiting NYC and Springfield Ma over a 3 day journey. I did some bible at 2 churches. Really special and the pastors very supportive. The reason I was in Rye was this wonderful couple who housed me in MI had recently moved to Danbury CT with a great new job. Knowing I was a Yankee fan they insisted on buying me a ticket to Saturday’s game. I could not say no. This was my 1st ever visit to the new Yankee Stadium. I wanted Dacy, my best friend from the 8th grade and through high school in Rye, to come with me but he was unreachable. So, on my journey from seeing the game at Yankee on the way to Hartford CT to drop off my rented car, just as I am driving past the Rye exit Rt87,..Dacy calls! I decided it was meant to be. He met me at the Rye High School track and we walked and talked for one hour and I really do not know how many times around the track. We commented on that very Jr High School building because it faces the beautiful John Nugent football stadium. I was planning on going into details with you about the game the church meetings...I even got to do baptisms with Pastor Fern in MA. I will get to these stories someday I am sure. In the Book of Jude, the shortest book in the Bible, Jesus brother says something to the effect... I would like to talk about something easier and enjoyable...but some thing has come up. Just like that afternoon in Rye 1963...life interrupts with "headline news".
I refer to the shooting in CO. How sad. How shocking. It could have been me or you. I was in between pastoral ministries when we lived in southern Oregon in the 90’s. I was working for "We Care" say no to drugs organization that got advertisers to discount their goods on a laminated card marketed for students, i.e. free fries with purchase of one Big Mac. On one day I visited the principal of Springfield High School in Springfield, Oregon. He was very sincere and hopeful. "We have gotten through the worst; we are turning the corner on the teenage drug culture.” He allowed our organization to give discount cards to his students free of charge with the message Just Say No. A few years later there was the shooting at Springfield High School. You heard about it. Maybe you forgot but you knew about it then. I thought of the principal. I should have called. As I write I cannot tell you why I did not call then. I could have said "I am so sorry..Is there anything I can do?"
These JFK things are so common. We see so much violence on TV, in movies, on the computer, even in games....but when it really happens we are shocked......then we go back to normal?? Is it normal.....or is it the new norm? Maybe we should call it ...stressful....the new stressful. It is so stressful that we escape...to a hopeless normal which is escape from the stressful so we can pretend that there is a normal. What if tragedy happened to you or someone you are close to and no one said anything to you? Maybe no one wanted to disturb you because you were suffering so. What if we all just say its normal don’t think about it, let’s go to movie, have a beer, things are not that bad...the world has been around for along time now ..it will be around a lot longer...cheer up."
They say the churches were filled after 9-11.....for 2 weeks. Then we did our collective best to escape into normality. "When will they ever learn when will the ever learn?" Let’s change that to “We".
I want to do better than my substitute teacher did when JFK was savegely murdered. No malice toward him, but I know better now. I, we all, have lived through devastating disappointment. I am sorry for your loss of hope and the despair that accompanies the loss. We all know better.. down deep we do. “The answers are not in the institutions, or their buildings, or in Hollywood’s movies, not even in the NY Yankees. The final words in Romeo and Juliet from the prince of the city...”All are punished". Godly sorrow leads to repentance. This is the good death. The other death is a dead end, and a hopeless journey into dead ends, until the final dead end and no more time to make pretend that there is another dead end so we can make pretend.
There was one other savage murder. When we mourn over that one, all the other JFKs, 911s, Colorado’s, Oklahoma City’s and Springfield’s begin to make sense. Death is painful to face but He died to show me He was there in my worst pain. He suffers more 911’s than we can know. He suffers yours and mine and your neighbor’s and that guy you hate and despise? Well He loves you both. He has the hope of a child who has never been betrayed.. and the wisdom of one who’s closest friends betrayed Him at His darkest hour. He knew and knows the heart of every man and woman who lives or ever lived. In the aftermath of this shooting I want to say to anyone who is still around to listen... I love you. My sincere prayer is that you and I can share this Love, one to another as one dying man to another." There is hope in death. Because He died so death could die; and we can live in peace in harmony and in shalom. Travel Mercies.