Trees absorb the sorrows of our neighborhood

1:35 PM

Yesterday I listened to the This American Life episode about Sam and his Iraqi 'brothers' - boys he began a relationship with by telephone and talks to every week.  His wife narrates the story of their relationship and she explains that usually the hardest part about talking with them is not hearing about the dangers and suicide bombers in their neighborhoods, but finding something to say back when they ask about her day.  Safety is such a given where we live that its hard to imagine what it would be like to live in a place where the status quo is explosions in the street.

So let me make this clear: I am not trying to draw comparisons between Iraq and my neighborhood. We live in a great community of people and rarely feel our safety threatened. I say rarely as opposed to never only because of the recent tornado and the effect that it had. My mind however, tends to mull over the events or stories that I have exposed myself to and the former story keeps coming up in parallel with the story below and whirling around up there.  I think I am sorting and trying to make sense of unnecessary suffering in both situations.

Last night Tory and I were talking around a large bonfire in our backyard (wood has been in abundance lately) and a car passed by our house and both our parked cars, going what was probably over 90 mph.  It bottomed out at the top of our street and exploded when it hit a tree. Tory ran to the scene, and I walked, trying to make my new too-fancy-for-me phone dial 911. As I got there, cops were already pulling up and I tried to absorb what had happened. 

Your mind moves so quickly in situations like this.  After I went to bed I was really upset with myself for not helping out once I arrived, but realized this morning that I had arrived a few seconds after the police already got there and help was already being distributed... the images in my mind of the woman trying to get up that I could have helped probably only lasted a few seconds before a policewoman helped her, but in my memory her pain and wailing last so long, while I just stood there.  I didn't even think of helping the other people who weren't moving.  It didn't seem like the right thing to do since the police were there. In the end, my lack of actions didn't make a difference either way, but I wonder what the most helpful thing to do is when the police is there and the ambulance is on its way.  Perhaps leaving is the most helpful thing to do after all.

All I could think as we left the scene was "why were they going so fast??"  I don't understand why you would ever go that fast on a residential street. It caused such unnecessary sorrow.

When we got home I offered some prayers for them.  Seems like not enough but in the end that's all I had.  I don't know where this entered my consciousness but I like to imagine that God has allowed the ocean to absorb the pain of the earth... carbon dioxide, over fishing to feed huge populations, waste of all kinds... and it is so big and large that it can bear it better than we or the land could.  We just don't know for how much longer.  So between this accident and last months tornado in an area already bearing the impacts of a society full of systematic injustice, I think the trees are bearing the community's pain, and we can connect and commune in the streets in spite of and because of these events.

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  1. Much love, my friend. Thank you for your vulnerabiity and honesty. Would love to talk about this over coffee or tea sometime.

  2. when i was studing in Barcelona, one friend showed a terrorist attack from ETA attempting against two soldiers. He told the same thing as you, in these moment he didn't try to help people injuried and after that he felt a deeply regret.
    We are affortunate if we have faith to lay in God's hands all that we've no realized in the past: He knows and He solved things faster and better.
    (excuse my spelling, cause i'm not very profficient in English... Yet)

  3. I just saw an updated news story and a cousin of the people in the crash was wondering the same thing and hadn't found any answers yet. "why were they going so fast?"
    that is the hardest thing to understand. see you when you get back, An, thanks.


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