Faith: What can just one person do? Love
November 7, 2018
Like most of the rest of the world, I was horrified when a man entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, shot and killed 11 people and wounded others.
Squirrel Hill is labeled as one of the U.S.’ largest predominantly Jewish neighborhoods. It was also Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.
Ironically, Fred Rogers said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”
Squirrel Hill has the reputation for being a neighborhood of helpers. As more and more of this horrific event unfolded, so did the stories of the helpers who were gunned down. And those stories broke through the darkness of grief like beacons of light.
It reminded me of the ripples you get when you skip a stone across a body of water. Each hit of the rock releases its own set of ripples. And much like the skipping stones, the stories created ripples as well.
One such story is that of the Jewish nurse, who cared for the gunman while he was a patient in the hospital. When asked how he could do it, offer care to the gunman, the nurse responded:
“Love. That’s why I did it. Love as an action is more powerful than words, and love in the face of evil gives others hope. It demonstrates humanity. It reaffirms why we’re all here. The meaning of life is to give meaning to life, and love is the ultimate force that connects all living beings.”
Another such story is that of Tarek El Messidi, who organized a fundraiser for victims of the shooting. He sent out a message to the Muslim community and said, “Let’s stand with our Jewish cousins against hate, bigotry, and violence.”
The fundraiser had more than $300,000 at last look, to help with medical bills and funeral costs for the victims.
A quick look at the LaunchGood website shows other efforts to meet hate with love: fundraisers for cleanup and repair of headstones in Jewish cemeteries in Pittsburgh and St. Louis, for the families of victims who were stabbed in a hate crime in Portland, for the shooting victims in San Bernardino, California, to name a few.
In keeping with meeting hate with love, a Jewish group organized the “Mitzvah for Pittsburgh” movement.
The group asked this: “How can we create change when our hearts are breaking? What can just one person do?”
People were asked to do a mitzvah in honor of the victims. The group’s philosophy is simple: “It is an indisputable reality: when light and goodness encounter darkness and hate, light and goodness will — without fail — prevail.”
I have a sign hanging on my office door, “Hate Has No Home Here” from the Celtic Christian Tradition. Simple, yet profound. Doable? I think so.
There is a quote that has been attributed to the Talmud, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the text. A little research turned up the notion that, scholars say, it’s more a mishmash of thoughts or interpretations from Jewish tradition than an actual quote. Either way, it is beautiful:
“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.”
We are all commanded to do that work regardless of the faith we live and practice. Maybe if we offer our goodness instead of evil, if we answer hate with love, we create ripples of change.
Perhaps we are the answer to the questions, “How can we create change when our hearts are breaking? What can just one person do?”
We just love.
“Hate Has No Home Here.”
Patti Dobson writes about faith for The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact her at: [email protected]