Five Minute Friday: Wait

Paw prints in the snow

(So, I’ve been participating in a “writers’ flash mob” of sorts called Five Minute Friday. In response to a one-word prompt, hundreds of writers sit down and write for five minutes flat. No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font or punctuation; unscripted and unedited. Here’s today’s edition…setting the timer….)

Five Minute Friday: Wait

Go.

I opened the front door and the two of us stepped over the threshold and into the half inch of new snow.

It was quiet – that special kind of quiet when the snow muffles all sound, the sun is only starting to peak over the mountain, and schools are on two-hour delay.

The morning trip out front is normally quick.

Tess, our little dog, usually does her morning business (number one) and heads straight back for the house.

But yesterday evening she had not come through with a number two…and I figured there might be more.

So…I waited.

While I waited, I noticed and soaked in that special snowy morning quietness.

Peaceful waiting.

Tess hesitated, but then started her back and forth pacing near the bushes.

Within a few minutes she did take care of that extra business and made her beeline for the house.

Two hours later, there was another kind of waiting.

Stressful waiting!

This waiting also involved the morning’s snow and ice.

This was the waiting between the moment when the brakes on our car locked up…my son and I started to skid out of the entrance to our neighborhood…and finally – thankfully – the moment when I got the car back under control and stopped.

All I could really do was wait.

And pray.

It seemed like a LONG wait…although it was only a few seconds.

We were sliding, and we were either going to stop – or not.

Thank goodness both the peaceful and stressful waiting of my morning yielded positive results.

Stop.

Snow shovel, bucket and ice melt

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“Those People”

Students view a memorial at the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Memorial at Buchenwald concentration camp. Photo by Sarah Lowther Hensley

The cold March wind bit at my face and whipped my hair. Bundled up in my nice warm coat, I shivered uncomfortably.

But it wasn’t just the wind.

It was the place.

I shivered and was uncomfortable because I was standing in the middle of what remained of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Buchenwald…this place where prisoners worked themselves to death or were experimented on or were shot in the back of the head.

It was hard to grasp the cruelty that once reigned in this place.

What happened here seemed like ancient history.

But it wasn’t really.

I was 20 years old as I stood there that March day.

I was 20 years old.

But it had been less than twenty years from when this death camp’s survivors were liberated and the day I was born.

In terms of history – a blink of an eye.

I stood there that day humbled and heartbroken.

Today, I watched on-line as the world gathered at the gates of another concentration camp – Auschwitz – to commemorate the 70th anniversary of its liberation.

Survivors shared their stories.

Time has passed and fewer of them remain, but each has a story.

Each survivor – and each of the millions killed in the camps – has a story.

Their individual stories did not matter to their captors.

In fact, they were stripped of their names and tattooed with numbers.

Their captors did not see them as individuals, but as members of groups to be feared or despised.

Groups to be exterminated.

“Those people.”

They were killed because of their group – Jews, Romani, disabled, homosexuals, communists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others – not because of who they were as individuals.

Today, as I watched on-line, I cried at the sound of the ram’s horn and as rabbis and priests offered prayers.

I cried as one speaker reminded us that it was the world’s silence, the world’s indifference that allowed Auschwitz to exist.

“Do not let this happen again!” he pleaded.

“Do not let this happen again!”

But we already have.

We still let “ethnic cleansing” occur in various locations across the world.

Maybe we don’t personally do it, but we are silent…indifferent.

We allow it.

My heart breaks when I read about extremists wiping out entire villages.

My heart breaks when people flee their homes in fear.

My heart breaks when, in Facebook posts and comments, I see people calling for us to go wipe out “those people” – or at least keep them far from us.

Not because of anything they as individuals have done, but because they are part of “those people.”

Auschwitz. Dachau. Buchenwald.

Those horrors are not really so long ago.

The people who were killed…and the people who did the killing…are not so different from us.

Each was a person.

Each had a story.

We are not so different.

We can be targeted.

We can do the targeting.

“Do not let this happen again!”

“Do not let this happen again!”

Maybe we start by listening to people’s stories.

Their individual stories…not the generalizations we tell about “those people.”

Maybe we stand up for those who are being targeted.

Maybe we hold people accountable for their individual actions, not blaming generalized groups for the actions of individuals.

Maybe we call people out when they start referring to “those people.”

Maybe we are not silent…or indifferent.

Deliver Us From Evil

Nub of a candle burning in foreground. Text is "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:21 NRSV

Evil exists.

Strapping a bomb on a little girl and sending her to blow up people? Evil.

Storming a workplace and executing employees and customers? Evil.

Blasting into a school and slaughtering children and teachers? Evil.

Torturing people?

Beheading people?

Cheating people?

Evil.

Evil.

Evil.

Evil exists.

Our natural inclination is to denounce it and respond.

Unfortunately our natural response is retaliation.

The Apostle Paul warned against repaying evil with evil.

Jesus said to pray for those who persecute us.

Pray for the terrorists?

Pray for the workplace and school shooters?

Pray for the torturers?

Pray for the executioners?

Pray for the cheaters?

That. Is. So. Hard.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus – teaching us how to pray – included the line:

“…deliver us from evil.”

Yes, evil exists.

Yes, evil hurts the victim.

Yes, evil hurts the person who performs the evil act.

“Deliver us from evil.”

Deliver us from being harmed by evil.

Yes.

But also, deliver us from doing evil.

Because…you know…sometimes we do.

What if victims, instead of planning retaliation, prayed for the evildoer(s)?

Lord, deliver the evildoer(s) from doing evil.

Yes.

“Deliver us (all of us) from evil.”

Amen.

 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:17-21 NRSV

Five Minute Friday: Welcome

(So, I’ve been participating in a “writers’ flash mob” of sorts called Five Minute Friday. In response to a one-word prompt, hundreds of writers sit down and write for five minutes flat. No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font or punctuation; unscripted and unedited. Here’s today’s edition…setting the timer….)

Five Minute Friday: Welcome

Go.

It wasn’t welcome news.

A chemical had leaked into the river, just upstream from the water company intake, and now hundreds of thousands of people were told they could not use their water except to put out fires and flush toilets.

No drinking, cooking, bathing, or cleaning with the tap water.

Period.

This was not welcome news.

It was, in fact, terrifying, burdensome, and inconvenient.

But not welcome.

That was a year ago today.

Since that day there has been some welcome news.

The owner of the company responsible for leaking the chemical into the water has been indicted and will face trial.

At this point there is no making up for the terror, burden and inconvenience.

To a large degree people’s trust of their water supply remains unrestored.

But it is a step in the right direction to hold people and corporations responsible for their actions.

Too often, it feels like our state’s leaders have sold us down the river – the same polluted river that provides us drinking water.

But today, on the chemical leak’s first anniversary, we can see a glimmer of hope that there will be accountability and – hopefully – credible deterrence of future such actions harmful to our environment and well-being.

And that is welcome news.

Stop.

chemical tanks near a river

Photo West Virginia Public Broadcasting wvpublic.org

 

 

 

Free Speech

Book Cover for Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses

For the record, The Satanic Verses was one of the most boring 500+ pages I ever read. But in 1989, to support the idea of free speech, I read them all from my very own hardback copy of the book. It seemed the least I could do to protest the death threat hanging over the author’s head.

I have not seen The Interview. I still support free speech, but I’m older than I was in 1989 and have learned the value of my time. The premise of the movie just seems too stupid. Even if an evil empire reportedly stooped to such great lengths to snuff it out via threat and cyberbullying, it doesn’t interest me. But I support the right of others to see it if they wish.

North Korean flag

Reeling from the audacious and evil attack on the Parisian offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo yesterday, I sought out the publication’s official Facebook page – thinking I would “like” it in a stance of solidarity with the cartoonists, other staff and policemen who were slaughtered by terrorists. Je suis Charlie and all that. The cover photo at the top of the Facebook page, however, was crass in a juvenile, butt-joke sort of way. So I chose to share some supportive statements via Twitter and an inspirational photo of thousands gathered to proclaim that they were “not afraid” of terrorists, but I held off on the Facebook “like.”

Large crowd of people in Paris - at night. Lit by street lights. Holding large sign that says "Not Afraid."

Photo Thibault Camus AP

I mention these three examples to illustrate that I don’t have to support or “like” what somebody says in order to support their right to say it.

I don’t even have to pretend to like it.

Supporting their right to say it does not imply endorsement.

They have free speech.

I have freedom of choice about what I read, watch, listen to or recommend.

Je suis Charlie?

Not really.

From what I have seen of that publication, it is not really up my alley or something I would find personally compelling.

So, while I am not Charlie, I stand in solidarity with Charlie…and Sony…and Salman Rushdie…and others targeted by evil, terror, murder and censorship.

Je suis Charlie?

Non.

Je suis Sarah.

Je suis humain.