The senseless slaughter of three people in Johnson County, Kansas this week drives home one of my primary guiding principles: On the scale of Nirvana to Bosnia, I’m so much closer to heaven.
We all realize that the grass seems greener on the other side of the fence, the woman in front of us looks thinner than we do, the lawyer who rises to give his summation sounds more eloquent than we anticipate we will be. These suppositions don’t come anywhere near the truth: Quite literallly, no matter how bad my day might be, someone, somewhere, has it worse.
That mother and daughter who stood before a congregation this week and urged us to celebrate life despite having just lost her father, her son; across town, the quiet, strong grief of another family, who told of their sister, mother, wife always helping others; these people have it worse than me today. And yet, in many ways, they have it better. They hold deep within them some kernel of hope and faith that eludes me.
I examine every day to see if I’ve done my best to live complaint-free. I don’t think so. In reality, my grumbling has just gone underground, taken over the running commentary in my head. I suppress it more readily, it’s true. But I conduct entire conversations in my head in which I analyze the actions of those around me and, truth be told, find them wanting. Or perhaps, the analysis might be of my own conduct, which I judge even more scathingly. I hold myself to a higher standard, and always fall short, always disappoint myself.
The families of those killed in Overland Park this week provide more than just a shining example of reverence. Their public faces remain composed, and they speak words of true compassion. I listened to that mother, that daughter; I gazed on her face; and I found a muse. I have nothing about which to complain; and I won’t. My child and my stepchildren breathe; I can look upon my husband’s face; no one has slaughtered them. What’s more, I had many moments with those who have already died, and their memories sustain me. My health might not be as good as I want, but I am still walking, decades after the best doctors predicted that I would be bed-ridden.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I have so much; and nothing to complain about. What a gift. How joyful life seems, from this vantage point. I reluctantly acknowledge that from the grief of those left behind after this week’s savage killings, I take a lesson. I despise what that shooter did; but I am grateful for the example of the ones to whom he did this despicable act. I take the lesson; and I go forward.