Our hearts and prayers go out to the people of Paris, their relatives and friends as they mourn the loss of those who were killed in the terrorist attacks last week. No matter what happens going forward, life has changed forever for some of those people. It gives us pause as well.
I’ve heard several people wondering aloud about our own potential for a disaster of those proportions. We are certainly not immune to that kind or type of event. That’s the problem: We don’t know what will happen or when something might happen, which engenders a kind of fear none of us is quite ready to deal with.
How do we prepare for a disaster when we don’t know if or when it might happen? Nobody knew 14 years ago that planes would be flown into buildings, and yet that’s what happened. So many “man-made” disasters have followed those terrible events that we can hardly keep up with them. While fanatics and extremists make plans, we tighten security and rely on our government to discover them before they are executed. This is how we try to prepare for an unknown attack that will happen someplace in the world to a group of people that have no idea that it’s going to happen to them.
Being proactive in a reactive world is difficult, especially when what we can actually do seems trite, inconsequential, but it most assuredly is not. We must look at those who feel disenfranchised, left out or marginalized or all of the above and realize these are the people who can be radicalized, who can be pulled into groups of people who do not have their best interests at heart.
We need to look into our schools and neighborhoods where young people don’t quite belong but desperately want to belong and feel part of something. They may not be third generation Americans, but they are still children of God even if we have a hard time recognizing them as brothers and sisters of ours. We must take off our blinders, put our sanctimonious and supercilious attitudes in our pockets and look at the people around us and listen to what they are saying. So often, we have a “failure to communicate” because we have lost the ability to listen on many levels: we don’t listen to our adult contemporaries who don’t see the world the way we do; our children who are too young or inexperienced to know about life; or our parents who may be losing the ability to speak to us in a meaningful way; or our God who speaks to us when we silence our technology and look within.
Our children can teach us so much about ourselves if open our eyes and our ears; even if our parents no longer communicate the way we expect, they have life lessons to offer about love and patience. And surely we can take five minutes for God, especially when we implore God to protect us, to watch over us, and to be with us as we make our way forward.