Weeds: Tough start for a Monday
With age comes minor annoyances: reading glasses, not hearing so well, aches that linger. One of them is occasionally not sleeping well. Sometimes you lie awake thinking of some problem. Sometimes you lie awake thinking about lying awake.
Monday before last was one of those. Sometime after three I woke. I tossed and turned a while thinking about the rain that was going to make harvest unfun. I thought about challenges my wife and the kids were facing in their lives, the sort of stuff that pushes into your brain in the dark. Finally restlessness won, and I got up.
In the still of the night kitchen, I turned on my phone. I get news bits on my screen from apps on my phone. One of those said there’d been a shooting in Las Vegas: two dead and many injured. A few minutes later the number was twelve dead and hundreds hurt. I sighed and closed my eyes, wanting to wish it away.
I started to look up the story on my newspaper apps. I could see the number of killed bounce from twenty to forty as I read what I could. Now it was after 4 a.m., and I thought I might as well turn the coffee maker on. I tried to look at some farm magazines, but kept going back to my phone. It was becoming clear this was horror on a large scale.
Sadly, we all know that feeling by now. You learn of one of these events, and a cascade of emotions washes over: frustration, anger, anguish, helplessness. I thought to pray and tried. But it’s hard to talk to God in those moments. I had to remind myself the prayer was for the victims, not me, and I stayed with it for a while.
A group of friends sends out early morning texts, usually about baseball with a dose of humor. Some texts came, but they ended as they became aware of the shooting. In my mind, I saw a wave of sadness from east to west cross America as people woke to the news. My daughter was in the middle of her day in Spain, and we shared a few messages about the shooting.
Now the deaths were fifty. With hundreds hurt, that was likely to climb. The scale was becoming incompre- hensible. I thought about having to tell Pam when she woke. I’m usually ahead of her to news, and I often break stories to her. When it’s one like this, I see sadness come to her face; it’s as if I relive my own first emotions. I didn’t want to tell her, but I would.
Monday was off to a bad start. I flashed back to Sunday, which had been a very good day. A group of friends goes to the last Twins game each season at Target Field, one of my Favorite Places on Earth. It is an ending rite of summer. One of our group that day was a young man I’d not met before but thoroughly enjoyed.
Spike Brey was in a car accident when he was three months old. As the totally unfair consequence of that, he is bound to a wheelchair. He has some use of his hands but that is limited. That alone would be sad. But that is not the story Spike chose to write with his life. He has a delightful personality. As our group joked with each other, Spike joined in with some great one-liners. When talk turned to something weightier, he offered thoughtful opinions.
It is a paradox that a sick man in Las Vegas can devalue human life so completely, while the young man I met goes through excruciating daily effort to live his life well.
I thought of another part of Sunday. Our group has taken to parking at Lee’s Liquor Lounge. (Don’t tell anyone, but you can park there for free if you buy a drink. It’s the best deal ever. We don’t want everyone to know. A couple blocks from Target Field, Lee’s is a small-town bar in the middle of the city. It’s one of my Favorite Places on Earth.)
We were there early. Then the game was delayed an hour to let a rain system move through Minneapolis. There was time for conversation. We were joined by James, the manager at Lee’s, who we have come to know. James is a black man who grew up in the Cities. He shares many of the same cultural touchpoints: television, sports, music. Quite obviously there are differences in our experiences.
We had a wide-ranging discussion that wove through the National Anthem issue to race in our country to crime to individual responsibility. Opinions were varied but freely offered. We disagreed on some things and found consensus on others. It was an hour of what America needs more of: respectful, civil, serious engagement with fellow citizens.
There seems to be so much anger in our country. Reading comments on-line becomes an exercise in cringing. Who knows if that contributes to shootings like that in Las Vegas? It can’t help.
These things were in my head this early Monday, as I continued following the developing tragedy on my phone. The sky was beginning to lighten; returning to sleep wasn’t going to happen. I needed to step away from coffee and news, and decided to drive the short distance to Sleepy Eye’s Lake Trail to walk. The Lake Trail is one of my Favorite Places on Earth.
The sun was just rising. That is always a welcome time, with promise of a new day. Today though I thought about Las Vegas where the sun would be coming up in an hour or so. I imagined the crime scene, eerily lit with spotlights. The rising sun would bring natural light to that awful site.
As Christians, we play word games, and the sun reminds us of the Son. That came to mind now. The Son brought God’s love to an imperfect world. Days like this it seems wildly imperfect.
Events like the shooting make us feel so helpless. As the sun drifted up off the horizon, I returned to prayer. In that prayer came my task for the day. It is the same every day: try to love better, try to bring kindness to the world, even in small ways. It seems inadequate on days like this, but it’s all we’ve got.