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In a World As Broken As Ours

My son asked me two days ago about bad guys. "Mom, are there bad guys in real life?" My firecracker of a son, who is a total sarcastic clown, asked me straight-faced and without a hint of a smile, who he needed to fear in this world. "How do I beat the bad guys, Mom?"

It has been a week since our community was rattled by the news of Shanynthia Gardner. When I heard what happened, I knew this was a topic that could not be ignored. It hit home. It involved a mother. It very clearly involved mental illness--although at the time officials were very careful not to speculate as to Ms. Gardner's mental state. The tragedy and terror happened so close to home, and I knew our readers needed to hear something from us on the subject.

But I couldn't do it. My heart ached too much. My stomach churned, and my mind drew a blank every time I sat down to write. So I waited.

Then news broke about Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Again, we mourned. We were sad. Angry. Confused, even. We turned to social media to relieve our frustrations.

And again, I knew something needed to be said, but I couldn't do it. My heart continued to ache. My stomach was in knots, and once again the words wouldn't come. So I waited.

Then Philando Castile in Minnesota.

The words wouldn't come. My heart was in a million pieces. And I began to feel less than competent to write about such tragedies. So, once again, I waited.

I woke up this morning to my husband asking me if I wanted to hear about what happened in Dallas.

"No."

So he sat in silence, and continued to read about it on his phone to himself. I really didn't want to know, but I knew that wouldn't last long. I knew that once I looked at Facebook, or logged on to my email, I would find out. So I asked him to tell me.

My head spun. I lost feeling in my legs. My eyes welled up with tears, and the lump in my throat was so big I couldn't speak.

This can't be our world. This isn't the country we live in.

I cannot pretend I have a solution to these problems our society faces. It seems that every single day, there is more and more reason to mourn. There are a flood of reasons why retaliation feels justified. There are more reasons to be angry. There are more reasons to lock ourselves in our houses, throw our hands in the air, and give up on all that is good.  It's so much easier to tell ourselves we don't want to know what's happening. It's easy to log off social media, close our eyes and put our hands over our ears. Like a child trying to drown out words we don't want to hear, we go about our business and pretend it doesn't affect us.

But it does.

"Are there bad guys in real life?"

Our world is full of bad guys. There is evil out there. It doesn't lurk in the shadows and laugh maniacally behind doors like in the movies. Evil rears its ugly head. It harms innocent, good people. It brandishes guns and straps bombs to its body, and it destroys as many lives as possible. And then it grows. It infects people who have grown tired. It infects those who feel Evil is the only answer. And then it grows more.

"Who do I need to be scared of?"

Nobody. You cannot look at Evil and know who he is. Sometimes Evil dresses as an ordinary person. Sometimes Evil wears a uniform. Sometimes Evil surrounds himself by people who are trying to make a positive change to this world. He cannot be identified by sight. There is no one-size-fits all persona that Evil inhabits. And he can turn up anywhere.

"How do we beat the bad guys?"

We love them. We love them until they learn to love themselves, and love us. We take the anger, the hurt, and the sadness we feel, and we turn that energy into love. Evil breeds where there is hate. Evil cowers in the face of Love. All we can do is invite Love into our hearts, and do everything in our power to bring Love with us everywhere we go.

Hiding from the pain and the terror is easy. Mourning in the face of tragedy is not a sign of weakness, but hating in the face of tragedy is. Those who actively love, share, and cry are the difference makers. That is who I choose to be for my community. That is exactly who our children need to see: the difference makers and the lovers. The people who turn the anger, hurt, and sadness into love.


If you or someone you love is in need of help coping with recent tragedies, we encourage you to reach out to the Memphis Crisis Center.

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