There are days that I'm fatigued. Every tragedy and crisis requires emotional energy. Bad news is a burden assumed by the head and heart. At some point, compassion fatigue sets in. We turn numb to violence, pain, and death.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims . . ." It is a pre-packaged catchphrase that rings hollow because we can't find words that really help. So what do we do when we're fatigued by bad news?
The reception desk was staffed with a team of bright, smiley 27-year-olds when I walked into Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, CA. They were hip, casual, and optimistic. After receiving credentials, we met Alex, a friend of a friend, and our "in" to FB HQ.
Accompanied by a small team from my church on a mission expedition to the San Francisco Bay Area, we followed Alex to a corral with rows of bikes. To traverse the complex of buildings, we gleefully biked like kids, calling them "Mark's bikes," a shout out to CEO Zuckerberg.
Like it's own city, the Menlo Park hub has everything, and it's all free. An employee will find:
A sense of optimism permeated the grounds. There was a feeling that "we're changing the world." It seemed less a company and more a cause, nearly religious in nature.
Common reactions to the growing list of men accused of sexual misconduct, harassment, or abuse.
"I'm so disappointed."
"They're dropping like flies."
"I can't believe it. I would never have guessed . . ."
"Who's next? The Pope? The Rock?"
We should all be saying that such behavior is unacceptable.
We speak on behalf of the dignity of women.
We work to break systems of lewd perversion and abuse of power.
We press for a new transparency in workplace and society.
We stand for those violated and look for ways to provide healing and support.
While we certainly say all these things, I'm also looking for what no one else is saying.
It's a growing list of recent tragedy. Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Mexico City. Las Vegas . . . and on top of it all, Tom Petty died on Monday. There are tragedies of all kinds, and they all cause a piercing pain.
There are times in life when the compounded effect of tragedy leaves you helpless. "What's going on? What can I do?"
We all have our ways of responding: cry, pray, give, post, advocate, etc. I've been reflecting on my own response to overwhelming tragedy. Here are some thoughts.
The San Francisco Bay Area is trendy, techie, and cool.
New York is the impressive intersection of the world - business, media, arts, culture . . .
Nashville and Austin are hot and happening cities with booming populations.
I live in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis was hot at the turn of the century - the 20th century. We hosted the World's Fair in 1904 and were the fourth largest American city, the Gateway to the West. Today, we're a worn and tired city. We've lost our NFL team and a few Fortune 500 companies. We suffer from a history of racism, white flight, and social disparity.
We're anxious right now because of tension over the acquittal of a white police officer who shot and killed a black man. Over the weekend, we witnessed clashes between protesters and police that returned us to 2014 and the unrest that followed the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.
Twelve years ago, I resisted St. Louis residency. I did not choose to live here. It was chosen for me. Today, I claim this territory as my hometown.
What happens when God calls you to a place you don't want to be?
This article was first posted on Mother's Day 2016.
Mother's Day is approaching. For some, it's anything but a sentimental Hallmark card or pleasant Sunday brunch. Motherhood is filled with surprises, and many of them are difficult.
As you prepare to celebrate Mother's Day, consider all the situations in which women find themselves. Be sensitive to the many circumstances that exist. Pray for those who are living through a variety of situations. Here are a few.
A majority of Americans say that they are unhappy with the choices in this year's presidential election. That seems obvious. But can anything good come from a divisive election cycle?
There's an old saying, "Never waste a good crisis." So what good can we see in a messy political crisis?
“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage . . .” - C.S. Lewis
I never thought I'd have to censor the 5:00 news. Last week I had a conversation with my oldest son and daughter. They had heard things like, "grab them . . ." "Just start kissing them." "They let you do anything."
What does a parent say to a child when this is the political discourse of the 2016 presidential election?
I had just begun my pastoral studies in September of 2001. There were hurried clusters of conversation in the seminary quad. Then students and professors crowded around TV's in the cafeteria.
Later that day, I drove to a juvenile detention center for a 10 week chaplaincy module. I tried to explain evil to teenagers in orange jumpsuits. On the way home, every gas station I passed had lines of cars backed up around the block.
Every American was trying to process impossible images. We all remember where we were, what we were doing, and who we were with.
Where were you on 9/11/01? How were you changed?
For me, a key realization was this:
One outcome of tragedy is that it further polarizes existing opposites. Everyone retreats to their respective corner. We use the tragedy to reinforce our stereotypes and justify our worldview. By this, we are driven further apart.
In the last 30 days we've had multiple national tragedies. Orlando, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas are a few. We have retreated to poles such as:
Christian vs. Muslim
Pride vs. Anti-gay
Trump vs. #nevertrump
Black vs. White