His brow was furrowed in concentration as he stood impassively to the side. I watched his glance move about the room, always attracted to any sudden noise or movement. Perspiration beaded his face in the warm field house. I was hot in a summer cotton dress and he was wearing a suit with a bulletproof vest underneath. A white cord curled from behind his ear disappearing into his collar but connecting him with the dozen or so like him positioned around the Moravian College hall.
In a moment of clarity I realized how relaxed I was about the safety of this gathering in the Lehigh Valley. People were talkative about the election and the excitement of seeing the First Lady but in general the people in suits were the tense ones. I thought how relaxed and excited the people were seeing the movie that night in Colorado or how peaceful the Sikh congregation was praying in Wisconsin. And in that moment I was deeply grateful for all the people who step into every day willing to put their life on the line for the freedom of our gatherings. Whether it is a member of the Secret Service or an officer of the Emmaus police or fire, no one is certain how the day will end.
And I wondered what could bring an end to the violence? It seems to be the resolution is not in finding all the killers and putting them in prison or killing them: someone always comes along and there is the next one. The resolution is identifying the needs of the people moved to violence and addressing the needs. It may be mental health needs, or a sense of hope or purpose, or self esteem or even the basic needs of food and shelter. There is a fundamental need for greater compassion and connection among us all. We do not have to hold the same thoughts or even dreams to speak to one another in community. In Matthew 25: verse 46, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” This is an admonition that speaks to Christians and yet it is a philosophy recalled by many. Gandhi said, “A nation's greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members." And Samuel Johnson said, “A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.” We are a nation of individual’s and yet we must become a nation compassionate about the welfare of the community. Each individual has a part in that responsibility.