What we are here for


There is nothing new in the world when it comes to suffering, not even in Tucson. Over the horizon of our attention span yesterday dozens, perhaps hundreds, maybe thousands of equally innocent people where cut down with as little reason. Perhaps they were also caught in a rising tide of violent and cynically divisive rhetoric. Perhaps, another man armed like a warrior but fighting only internal daemons, went off like a grenade in their lives, too.

It is certain that another 25,000 children died of things like diarrhea, hunger and quiet desperation because they do not look like the people where they live who have money or guns or education. The same day the bullets flew in Tucson, our local paper published an exhaustive article about the grossly disparate rates of premature death linked to race in Memphis. No bullets, but lots of death.

There is nothing new in the world when it comes to suffering.

Or healing.

Says Larry Pray: “I do not live in Tuscon. But I know what the churches, synagogues, mosques and temples there are doing. They are gathering together. They are praying, they are reaching out, they are consoling, they are looking for ways to stem violence. They are embodying Tikun olam. That’s what they do.” (http://www.larrypray.com/?p=2077)

What are we for, if not to heal? Or, as Larry spins out the vocabulary of hope: “Mend. Repair. Forgive. Strengthen. Find hope over despair. Find a way to stem the tides of violence. Heal. Tikun olam.” That’s what we are for.

I am old enough to have known people doing this kind of most basic healing for some decades. They serve in the soup kitchens, come alongside the bruised and battered women and children, sit with the abandoned ones suffering mental torment and those caught in chemical tangles. They tenderly, quietly stand with those damaged by violence. Tikun olam.

This kind of healing isn’t done on the internet or through the windshield. While you can send an unmanned drone to kill, you can’t heal that way. “No drive-by compassion,” I heard many years ago.

Healers, most astonishingly, keep doing it decade after decade. How can this be?

We are find our lives in the healing of others’. It is not a paradox; it is straight up truth of how it works on this odd and wonderful planet.

Healing is mystical, but not magical. We can show up on purpose. Prepare ourselves on purpose. Train our congregations to do healing work on purpose. We can choose words that heal on purpose. We can give our children eyes to see others kindly on purpose.


That will all happen in the morning in Minneapolis, Memphis and Mombasa. And it will happen in Tuscon even amid the tears.

– Posted on the journey

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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