Yesterday morning, a young mother just a few miles from here killed her four teen-age and pre-teen children, before taking her own life. I did not know her, but my heart aches for her and her entire family. Who of her neighbors and extended family had an inkling of her pain, pain so debilitating that continuing life was unbearable? Yes, there was a history of problems – problems in relationships, problems with the law, and, undoubtedly, problems with a hopelessness so deep that she could see no glimmer of relief.
I wonder what help was offered her. I wonder what judgment was heaped upon her. I wonder how many hands were extended to her in blessing, how many fists raised against her in condemnation. I can not help her now. The question for me remains: Would I have reached a hand to her if I had known her? Or would I have joined the legions who criticize and damn?
Teddy Roosevelt suggested that those who go far “speak softly and carry a big stick”. That may be true, especially in this land of lions and alligators, but I think that we are called to embrace the cry of the prophet Micah, to live justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Good Shepherd (6:8).
It is better, I think, to extend the shepherd’s crook to rescue people from the brink, than to raise the stick to club them into despair.
God of us all, help us to see each other through your loving eyes and embrace each other with your understanding heart.