“To love is to keep moving forward” – Pope Francis
A little over a month ago, I went to see my friend Georgia in Colorado Springs. We stayed up late talking, watching silly movies, drinking wine and imagining what the future might hold in our careers and personal lives. We woke up that next morning our destinies sunny and bright and full of happy things. We felt empowered, connected and alive. That day’s agenda included breakfast, coffee with another friend, errands and quality time together before my drive back to Denver.
But, as we walked out of the house, something wasn’t quite right. When we got within a few feet of the car I heard Georgia say, “Oh my gosh,” (followed by a few expletives). The windshield was completely shattered, struck at least twice, the spider webs of glass spiraling out from two points of impact. Pieces of glass coated the dashboard and the hood of the car, likely the result of a baseball bat (or similar item).
We stood there shocked. Who would do this? Why? There wasn’t anything in the car worth stealing. It was an old car; certainly not one someone would be interested in carjacking. She was new to the neighborhood; there was no possibility of revenge, anger or malice. But there was the car: Broken, battered and by no fault of its own.
We poured over the “why” behind the “what.” Why would someone inflict harm without motivation – or with a motivation unbeknownst and unrelated to us? What causes people to act – irrationally or intentionally – in a harmful or violent way? Why don’t they feel what their soon-to-be victims will feel? Pain. Violation. Grief.
Our windshield scenario is a small example of the big ways our world and the people in it are hurting.
Umpqua Community College.
This isn’t a post about gun laws. This isn’t a discussion of political ideology. This certainly isn’t a space to point fingers. Yes, things need to change. Yes, we need to look at government infrastructure worldwide. But those topics are for another time. This is a discussion of love.
I would bet that at some point – perhaps in the not too distant past – the windshield perpetrator experienced a love deficit. Something in his or her life didn’t connect. He or she didn’t feel supported, or s/he sought support, affirmation or confirmation in ways unfulfilling or flawed. Maybe s/he struggles with depression, loneliness, anger, fear or the lack of adequate mental health resources.
This doesn’t excuse the act. It certainly doesn’t give permission for violence. But maybe it can help us move toward acceptance, compassion and, eventually, forgiveness.
Rarely after someone inflicts harm will we receive an explanation or an apology capable of healing the hole in our hearts. Seldom is there a human action that makes up for the pain we feel. We may never hear the words, “I’m sorry” or, “Can you forgive me?” It is quite possible that the person (or people) who caused pain will never feel bad for doing so. Or, if they do, we may never know about it.
When we reach this point, we have two choices. We can raise the walls of our hearts higher, we can trust less and we can close our doors. Or we can love.
After we discovered the windshield, we filed a police report, called the insurance company and scheduled a replacement for the following day – it was a Sunday. We still went to breakfast. We met a friend for coffee. We ran a couple errands. We adjusted, we problem solved, and we moved forward.
2015 has been a tough year. This is true in my personal life and in the lives of so many around the world. It is probably true in the life of the windshield perpetrator. Undoubtedly, it is true in the lives of those who inflicted great pain on an enormous scale in Paris, California, across the Middle East and in my home state of Colorado. And unquestionably for all those who lost loved ones.
In our broken world, we will continue to experience pain – sometimes on a small scale like the day we found Georgia’s windshield smashed in, and sometimes on a much, much bigger scale. Humans will continue to make choices that are not in the best interest of the people they affect.
To love is to forgive, both on the days we feel okay and on the days when the pain is so present we feel it in our physical bodies. To love is to recognize that human beings are fallible and fully capable of causing great harm, knowingly or unknowingly, intentionally or irrationally. To love is to accept that we may never know the “why” behind the what, and that our beautifully human, imperfect and resilient hearts will keep beating.