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In absolute horror I have watched the Arizona shooting media coverage over the last several days.  I’m sure you have too.  It appears that at least one person walked into a political “meet and greet” session outside a Tucson grocery store and just started shooting.  Six people are dead, including a nine year old girl, and fourteen others are also injured, several critically.

Why?  Why do these “not-so-uncommon” events continue to headline the news?  The Pima County Sheriff in Arizona hinted at a possible reason for this atrocity:  political mudslinging that has become vile, toxic, and destructive to human dignity with deleterious effects, particularly on those that are unstable.

Late yesterday afternoon I walked to our local Dollar General store that is located near a high school.  As students were exiting the school I was a bit taken back by the appalling verbal insults that were being hurled at each other.  Suddenly, just as she was passing me on the sidewalk, a young female ripped off her coat, threw it down, and lunged at a male student who was engaging in the verbal sparring with her.  He jeered and laughed and continued to loudly evaluate her character and her family in a most destructive and disrespectful manner.  Last week I happened upon an elementary school playground during recess.  The adult supervisors either didn’t hear or didn’t care about what the young children were saying to each other – statements that were intended to deeply hurt another child because of a disagreement over a toy.  A toy.

Have you attended a sporting event recently and listened to the comments of the crowd?  Or have you waited in a “customer service” line to return a retail item?  The conversations that take place between the employee and the disgruntled customer are usually not pretty.  One of my older friends who doesn’t quite qualify for disability status is having a hard time making ends meet.  She told me recently that she is considering a telemarketing job since she can sit down for that type of employment.  Not saying a word I cringed and scrunched up my face when she shared this job possibility with me.  She replied, “I know.  I’m strong but I really don’t know if I can take all the verbal abuse that people would give me when I called them.”

I turned on the television last night and heard with fresh ears the verbal volleying that occurs between actors on many shows.  It seems that the unspoken message is whoever can say the most hurtful, cutting remark – the quickest – is the better person.  It is all about “one-upping” another person with the quickest, Sonic-slap comeback.

Wow.

I don’t think it is just politicians that have become experts at hurling vile, insensitive, and hurtful comments at each other.

I am wondering if we have lost the art of respectful, social discourse and interaction with those that we live with here on the earth.  In fact, flip to the old movie channel tonight for a stark contrast in social interaction.  I know those old movies are just that – movies.  However, they are a reflection of the culture of that time.

I heard a quote last week that has come to mind during the events of the last several days.  The quote is:  “Nothing is as strong as gentleness – and, nothing is as gentle as real strength” (St. Francis de Sales).

That reminds me of Jesus.  I love the picture of Jesus calling little children to come to him.  I picture him swooping them up in his arms, kissing their little faces and hugging them tightly.  I also love the gentle way I picture Jesus with women – especially those that were outcasts of society.  He called them “daughter”, he looked loving at them, he encouraged them, he helped them, he took up for them, he healed them.  It touches me when I think about how he gently spoke to and cared for those that were so destitute and helpless.  But Jesus was not a wimp.  He knew how to get in someone’s business when he discovered that they were taking advantage of people for whom they should have demonstrated concern and gentleness.

Jesus showed us that there really is nothing as strong as gentleness.  Proverbs 25:15 (ERV) says, “With patience, you can make anyone change their thinking, even a ruler.  Gentle speech is very powerful.”

Vile, hateful language appears to be contagious and destructive these days.  However, Jesus reminds us that gentle speech is profoundly powerful and ultimately more contagious.

Let’s spread the word.

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Jaded

It was a touching experience watching the children discover that all the beautifully wrapped presents were for them.  They could barely understand the language but they could completely understand the gesture.  Their little faces were precious.  Their eyes glistened with disbelief, surprise, and excitement.  Their smiles could have warmed the coldest of hearts.  Clearly, I received the better gift.

It all started a few weeks ago when hubby and I queried over what we could do to support children in our neighborhood whose parents work multiple jobs in an economic downturn to provide necessities for their families.  We learned from the kind-hearted school counselor at our local elementary school that most of their students were not only new to our country but most didn’t have enough money for lunch.

So we got a shopping list from the school.  Many of our dear friends said, “We’re in.”  But we also wrote and mailed letters to people on our block and asked if they wanted to help.  We thought it was a good idea to ask but never expected a response.  After all, none of us really know each other.  But a trusting handful said, “We’re in too.”  They were cautious, but generous.

I’ve thought a lot about how I would have responded if I had received one of our letters.  I’m ashamed to admit it but I probably would have trashed it.

When did I become so jaded?  I know, personally, that charlatans and scam artists abound these days.  But did a couple of car wrecks in my neighborhood last week cause me to stop driving?  No.  The green line derailed on Saturday and sent people to the hospital.  Did that cause me to stop using the trains?  Nope.  I rode the blue line today.  So why do I let a few unscrupulous folk cause me to miss some great opportunities to show love and care for others?

Good question.

I hope I have turned over a new leaf.  Maybe it is time we stopped letting the charlatans and scam artists among us determine our philosophy of life – that you can’t really trust people and that there are really no “good deeds.”  And maybe, because I have some really great friends and neighbors, there are some immigrant children who are developing a different philosophy of life in this country.  Maybe in their formative years they are discovering that there are people they can trust and that there are people who do good because it is the right thing to do.

I still wish you could have seen their little faces.

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