Detours in Life
Pentecost – 22
One year ago over two thousand flights were cancelled as a fier and power outage at a Delta Air Lines control center affected air travel worldwide. Many people found themselves facing changes in plans, delays, and certainly detours in their everyday living. These were temporary detours to be sure but they still created a type of chaos that many saw as avoidable evil. Eventually, though, people did get to their destinations and life resumed again. It did not seem like it at the time but those affected by these flight cancellations were luckier than many.
Bombings worldwide have become less once-in-a-lifetime events and are on the verge of becoming more common. Recently in a southern town a gun battle ended a discussion between two teenagers out for a movie on a Saturday night at a popular shopping open air mall. The mall has a strict curfew – no one under the age of eighteen allowed after 8 PM without a parent or guardian. The movie theatre had a line outside of over hundred teens, most without an adult present and shoppers mentioned this to the security standing outside the theatre. Security took a “What can we do?” attitude and nothing was said to the teens violating the curfew nor was any law enforcement called. That is, not until a few minutes later when a fifteen-year-old pulled out a gun and shot a sixteen-year-old.
Weapons have been around ever since man decided to eat something larger than himself. Sitting on a shelf, that weapon will most likely do no harm to anyone. With proper training and usage, it might even one day be practical. When weapons are used to illustrate a point, however, they become deadly and innocent victims will most likely suffer.
The simply answer to get rid of all weapons is not the answer but what we do in the aftermath of such events is. When faced with detours we need to focus less on the detour and more on how we handle it and what we do afterwards.
Acts of terrorism are detours but they can be avoided if we remain calm and take proactive approaches. We cannot let radical evil alter the course of our lives and yet, we should and must confront the grief of so many lives lost due to evil. Make no mistake: terrorism is not about religion. This is about greed and power. It is easy to point fingers but we each are responsible for our own actions. As the Anishinabek Indians, of the Algonquin Nation and located in Ontario, would say – “No one else can represent your conscience.” Even the Apache, considered a southwest US American Indian tribe with a warring history knew that “It makes no difference as to the name of the God, since love is the real God of all the world.”
It is very hard to look in our hearts when dealing with those who have committed these egregious acts. We would rather react with anger. It is at such times we need the wisdom of the Arapaho: “When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.” I know what you might be thinking. “They showed us no respect.” That is true. However, as an old Cherokee proverb points out, “The weakness of the enemy makes our strength.” Their weakness is their need to strike out against innocents. They know they cannot win by using logic and reason for their course of actions do not have any. They must battle and they do not battle fairly. They cannot win a fair fight so they battle the unprepared, the untrained. They are cowards.
A Cheyenne saying advises us to “Judge not by the eye but by the heart.” We cannot let the images of tragedy be our compass. We must use our heart in determining our future paths. We cannot think to honor those who have died by causing more death. The Delaware Indians believed “Good and evil cannot dwell together in the same heart, so a good man ought not to go into evil company.” The Hopi agreed: “Do not allow anger to poison you.”
The Iroquois believed “In every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decision on the next seven generations.” The Lakota a tribe that was the merger of the Sioux and Teton tribes of the US northwestern area said that “true peace between nations will only happen when there is true peace within people’s souls.” John Lennon asked us to imagine a world where people lived to ether in peace. Days after the Paris scenes of terrorism someone played his melody on a piano outside the concert hall of great carnage, the music soothing the pain.
Today many will face detours in their living, serious alterations in the life they had planned. Whether from violence or illness or changing life situations, many will attempt to pick up the pieces of lives broken. We need to let our faith anchor us as we offer goodness to the world. The Pawnee Indians believed “all religions are but stepping stones back to God” and the Osage taught that “we must assist each other to bear our burdens.” Let us use our energy to help our fellow neighbors to bear their burdens. Let us remember to be that which we would like to see in others and cast aside thought of retaliation and further killings. As the Shenandoah Indians proclaimed, “It is no longer good enough to cry peace; we must act peace, live peace, and live in peace.”
I have thus far taken somewhat a light-hearted approach to the various detours we face in our lives but some are deeply serious and life-changing. How we handle the aftermath of these detours will determine what comes next. Some detours are avoidable while others are not. A driver crashed through a construction zone because he failed to be alert and take a different route. A school bus slid off a roadway due to needing to turn around because its normal route was flooded by a sudden storm. Both were detours of travel. One was avoidable and the other not so much. There were injuries in one and none in the other but both serve to remind us that even a simple trip home or school can result in a sudden detour.
Life gives us detours. It is unavoidable but our response to such is critical. All we can do is live justly and act, not react. I ask that you seek the light and goodness and ask whatever your supreme deity is to shower love upon those who were affected. We are all neighbors and need to remember that we are all called to be good stewards of our world and all living things. The Oneida identified how to live with light and goodness: “To be noble is to give to those who have less. It is an issue of service and leadership. Service is a spiritual act. Service is the rent we pay for living, the anchor to our humanity.”