Saints of Bernardino

San Bernardino. Any words of understanding or discernment deserve the reflexive disdain you are feeling for the ugly noise of our array of presidential miniatures, tweeting when they should be thinking. We simply do not know what or why or how or even really who. Let us mourn and feel the sorrow deeply.

But even in our sorrow and shock, we must not open room for fear, especially of each other. Let us not give fear a chance.

As we mourn once again, let us find each other’s hope in the kindness among strangers. I noticed more doors held open today, slightly more courtesy as a kind of instinctive investment in social bonds among those we do not know. Make room for that; seek it out in yourself and give expression to kindness, especially toward strangers.

Every single religion, especially the one that bears the name “seeker of peace”—that’s what “Muslim” means—tells it followers to give special kindness to the stranger, the other, the one apart. The followers of every single religion have violated that counsel for millennia, slaughtering when they know they should be sheltering. That’s exactly why the texts we hold as sacred, inspired by more-than-human wisdom, constantly repeat the most basic possible rule of life: do unto others as you would have done unto those you love most, even more than your own handful of years. Do unto others—especially those who are the most other. This is why many of my Baptist people are offended by Jesus at the Samartian well with the whore. And why angry Muslims who hate their own peaceful faith choose the easy violence over the great jihad inside.

Do unto them with kindness that makes the way for understanding. Be kind first; then hope to understand. And what will you understand? That there is no other, no in and now out, no us and no them. This was true when it took months to sail across an angry grey ocean; more true now that we live in each other’s lands so intimately that “they” are “our” doctors and “we” are “their” sellers of arms.

I write with a heaviness in my gut for San Bernardino is no stranger to me. Loma Linda University Health is at this moment giving it’s every bit of hopeful intelligence to saving the lives of some of those torn apart Wednesday. It is one of the most tenaciously creative partners of Stakeholder Health. The learning journey of what is now dozens of systems with hundreds of hospitals made almost it’s very first step forward there, less than a mile across the I-10 freeway to the buildings we now know by sight. Loma Linda is a “blue zone,” known by health researchers as a radical outlier of very long life and well-being. The irony is lost on the press, so transfixed by fear and bullets; but not on me and the other Stakeholder Partners across the country.

Friday morning TC and I will be on the ironic ground of Tacoma, Washington. It is also held tightly between a rain of assets and possibilities, as hard to miss as its better known drizzle and the intractable bitter reality of different life expectancies and daily struggles; just as obvious. No big mystery who is up and who is down; its been a long pattern marked by race and class and place. Of course. What’s new is who is at the center tomorrow: The Leaders in Women’s Health, a group of cancer survivors who are finding their life on the other side of fear by giving it to those who need it most. Lending their energy and tenacious hope to the future of the community, they create the moral vortex holding open the space for the love that casteth out fear.  Not “how do we cling to our lives?” But ,how do we give away the years we have left to those who come next, to the world God so loves, the God of all names, the God all who worship give honor.

We are gathering to map the assets of this very community, the streets and byways, the bruised and yet verdant ones. The bruises are better known, as all realized fears are. But together we can see more than what’s wrong and what’s lost. We can see what is and what could be. So we will map the assets using a process now a decade young, born in the toughest parts of Africa, refined from Memphis to Buffalo and downtown DC and the hills of North Carolina. Maybe a lens powerful enough for Tacoma, maybe even San Bernardino.

When you don’t know exactly what to believe, it is even more important to know where to believe. Find those who don’t hold their own stuff and kind so closely that the winds spirit can’t get at it. Find some people who won’t give up on what’s next. Go and be with them and see if together you don’t see where to put your hands and give peace a chance.


About garygunderson

Vice President, FaithHealth, Atrium Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders, Religion and the Heath of the Public, Speak Life and God and the People. Secretary Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group). Founder, Leading Causes of Life Initiative
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1 Response to Saints of Bernardino

  1. Kenneth L. Carder says:

    As always from Gary, this is an insightful word of hope amid despair and a glimmer of light breaking through the darkness of violence and hate! Thank you!

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