Monday, November 3, 2014

Standing at the fence

On the way back from Seattle this afternoon, Beve and I had to stop to buy some sweatpants for Grampie. That's how it started. He went one direction, straight into one of the swooshy-type athletic stores my family gets sucked into and never comes out of without at least one bright orange bag. I bypassed that and agreed to meet him at a furniture outlet where we love to buy drool over furniture, light fixtures, towels and sheets. Christmas ornaments from there hang on our tree these days; that's about the kind of price we can afford of their stock. But every now and then, if the stars align or something, and every sale is out of this world, we find something so spectacularly reasonable we buy it. The bed on which I write this came from that store, our daughter E has a beautiful linen chair in her living room from there. But usually, we just  drool.

Today was a drooling day.
But before I met up with Beve, I'd stopped at a clothing store and bought one single burgundy tunic. It was rich and pretty in color, soft in texture, and long enough to be forgiving of my generous curves. AND, the sale price meant I HAD to buy it. Didn't I? Really, didn't I? At the cash register, the young man brought out an enormous bag to put my soft little tunic in--an enormous plastic bag. But I can do without one more plastic bag in my house, let alone anywhere else, so I told him I'd just put the shirt into my small over-the-shoulder purse. It fit, but just barely. In fact, the zipper bulged when I zipped it in front of the clerk, so I just barely opened it again to stuff the receipt inside.

Then I walked out of the store, off to drool with Beve at luxuries beyond that which we need or even knew we wanted before the moment they were pointed out to us by their mere existence. Sure enough, Beve was carrying a large orange bag with a swoosh across the front. When we met at the back of the store, he was drooling over a large linen laundry basket on wheels. Beside it a linen stool in same hue had caught my eye. Both would suit our bathroom very well.  But first, as I unzipped my purse, I said, "Beve, can I put this shirt in the bag?"  He handed it over and the transaction was done. I didn't think another thing about it until...

Tonight when we got home, and that shirt is NOWHERE to be found. Not in the bag, the car, my purse, our overnight bags, or back in the store (I called). Then I sat and tried to remember the real sequence of events, and what else was going on.
And then I remembered a couple who were also right by the laundry basket and linen stool. Their attention was aimed at the oatmeal-hued cloth covered bed frame, but I remembered that the woman stared at me when I took my shirt out of the bag, because I had a fleeting thought that it did look a bit funny, a bit like I was taking a stolen article of clothing from my small shoulder bag, a bit like I had shop-lifted rather than simply eschewed a plastic bag. Appearances can be deceiving.
while we WERE buying to laundry basket (I know, I know, just drooling, right? ), I sat down and waited, holding the sack. But a stack of dishes caught my eye. Because Beve was RIGHT there, I thought it safe to leave the bag. Apparently I was wrong. I only turned my back for a single minute, and don't know for certain what happened, but I do know that the same couple sat down on a couch quite near me. I do know that I turned my back--it was a sack, for Pete's sack, not the crown jewels.

And you know too, don't you?
I am not accusing them because I don't know for sure.
I told Beve, it's possible that whoever took that shirt had the very best instinct in mind. They saw me move it, felt I'd done wrong and was trying to right that wrong.
I pray they need it, actually, that they didn't steal it because they felt even as I did: that they just wanted a new shirt. I pray that they needed it, or needed a gift for someone. I pray that good will come from what they did, even if it's a small thing to them.
Whatever the case, I pray whoever took that burgundy tunic enjoys it.
And...I hope to stop wishing for that moment back when I decided to move it from my purse to Steve's shopping bag--for mere convenience's sake.

But all this was just the first act of our afternoon. From there, we decided we wanted to drive past the high school which was recently in the news because a despondent young man didn't have enough to look down the road of his life past that moment and find hope. I live with a young (though a decade older than this one) man who get who that feels. I do not. However, my not knowing is no excuse for not caring though.

The town of Marysville cares. That's written on every street corner where red and white ribbons flutter in the breeze, on every sign, on trees and restaurant windows. That steadfast, "We love you; we ARE you!" is the backbone for healing at such a time as this. While the world's attention span is the length of a news cycle and another school shooting barely skims the surface of all the pain  that settled at its door the moment that hope-empty teenage boy invited his friends to their regular table in the school cafeteria then opened fire on them.

Marysville, Washington for those of you who don't come from these parts, is a quaint little town. It's patently NOT Seattle, thank-you very much, even if you can almost see it from here. We have more than a passing acquaintance with the place because our close friends pastor a church mere blocks from the high school where the school shooting took place. Our pastor friend has been sadly--but certainly mantle-called--intimately the aftermath of the shooting because of his work he does a a chaplain with the police dept. He told Beve he did more chaplain work in the first few hours after the shooting than he's done in five years with the department. I don't know the details of that work. It's not mine to tell if I did know it. But I do know that what God has done in my friend JM in the last years of his life has more than prepared him for such a time as this, perhaps for just such a time as this, sad as that truth is.

Our moment grieving with the community took us to the chain-link fence in front of Marysville Pilchuk High School. There have been pictures of this fence on the news in the last ten days but it's difficult to comprehend what I mean by it if you haven't seen it. You know the little memorials that spring up along roads where a person has been killed? That's what this is. Magnified by an entire region...and beyond. It's about a quarter mile long, covered with roses and other flowers, letters, pictures and emails. Balloons drift overhead on wobbly ribbons. Candles edge the bottom. There's a sawhorse barrier blocking people from parking too close, giving the grieving community space to walk beside the fence. We stood next to parents with small children, an older woman carrying a bouquet of golden roses (with orange tips), A man carefully squashed his cigarette with his toe at the stoplight before entering the fenced area.

Yes, that fence has become a sacred space, it seems to be. As I walked along it, reading words from friends, children, families of the victims, strangers, other high schools, older alumni, victims of other shootings, tears streamed down my face.
Of course.
You can't be there without crying.
And you can't be there without praying.
Those are the first two things.
But I also learned a giant truth about love.
The victims's appeared prominently, of course. did the one who was so hurting he caused the pain.
Right beside them there was his name.
Over and over, there was his name.
That got to me.

Love in action, where it's hardest.
I know this isn't simple.
And I know there are hundreds of other secondary victims, of course.
Every student who was terrified.
And all the parents who are still worried about sending their children to school.
But for a moment,
let's stand at the fence in silence,
and love where it's hardest.
Love those who seek to destroy.
That's what I learned yesterday.
Those who hurt along side with those who have been hurt.
And loving both together.

It's called forgiveness.
And we're called to it.

1 comment:

Pamela M. Steiner said...

I have no words. Praying for that community and those young people...yes, even the one who was hurting so much that he did this...praying for his they must be grieving. Thank you for giving us this close up view of the sorrow of a whole community.
Also...sorry about your tunic. I too pray whoever took it really really needed it. Forgiveness...what a lovely word.