Together We Rise

Last June my husband and I flew to Rwanda to spend time with one of my authors, Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga, to finish up his book Forgiveness Makes You Free. It was a great privilege to meet in person those I had met only in the pages of his manuscript: his brother and sister (the only members of his family who survived the 1994 genocide), along with hundreds of others, both Tutsi and Hutu, whose lives had been indelibly scarred by the violence. The high point of the trip, however, was meeting the former burgomaster, Straton, who had given the order to slaughter the Tutsis who had come to the commune for his protection. Among them was Fr. Ubald’s mother and other family.

C06 Alice, Heidi Father, and Straton

Interpreter Alice, Heidi, Fr. Ubald, and Straton June 16, 2018

As I listened to him tell his story, I realized that this was no hardened criminal. Like so many Hutus at that time, he had been caught up in a wave of fear and hatred, protecting his own family, his own interests. But in the end, he failed. His wife died while he was in prison, leaving his children destitute. He lost his freedom, having chosen to return from hiding to give witness to the truth of what had happened. And when he was released from prison last year, he even lost his standing — the former community leader was now performing manual labor to support himself. And yet, as he talked I could hear no bitterness, only regret … and gratitude to the man whose profound forgiveness had changed not only his own life, but that of his children as well.

Returning to the U.S. after our trip, I recoiled at the political vitriol that seemed to be continuously spilling across my Facebook feed. I had seen firsthand what happens when two groups of people turn on one another — including former family and friends as well as fellow parishioners — according to party lines. While only a small percentage of Hutu had planned the killings against the Tutsi (and Hutus who resisted or tried to protect the refugees), thousands more were compelled to engage in the violence out of fear, anger, or self-interest. A million people were slaughtered in just 100 days, including whole families. Fr. Ubald’s message of forgiveness and mercy has helped many survivors to heal … but there is still much work to be done.

His message is one that is desperately needed today. The anger and bitterness that is pulling our country apart is turning deadly … and cannot be halted by one person, not even one as powerful as the President.

It must start with us. You and me.

When lifelong friends and family members become so embroiled in their political views that they stop speaking to one another, we must find a way to forgive and remember how much there is to love.

When toxic memes, vilifying one side or the other, come across our social media feeds, we must find the strength to unfollow, rather than share.

When we become disillusioned with our political system, we must not waste time and energy howling into the wind. Instead, we must ARISE. Speak respectfully. Act meaningfully. Love absolutely. And, to quote the great Mr. Rogers, “find the helpers.”

Because if we don’t do these things, not only will we fail to “make America great again.” We will lose even the goodness we once found in each other.

Together, We Rise. That red and blue needs to blend … pick your favorite shade, and let it inspire you. Crimson, electric purple, lilac.

What will you do?


Trump That

Trump.jpgTonight Facebook was astir with the news that President Trump’s Thursday night rally is being moved from the South Bend Airport to the Elkhart North Side Gym. (This image is from the Goshen News article with details about how you can get tickets is here.)

Now, normally I don’t post about politics. The truth is, I haven’t completely recovered from the Obama years; for the last four presidential elections my husband and I have made a pact not to cast a vote for either presidential nominee, since we would cancel each other out. (We would vote for the other offices.) This past election was no exception.

But I have to say, I am getting really tired of people hinting (or saying outright) that only vapid airhead with no moral compass could possibly have voted for _________. As if there isn’t room for prudential judgment on both sides here.

I’ll tell you another secret: I’ve decided that who sits in the White House doesn’t concern me nearly as much as who runs our schools and social and community services. Because these are people whose decisions impact the lives of my family every day.

Furthermore, if you don’t like who is sitting in the White House, there comes a point when whining about it on Facebook is worse than useless. If you want to make a change, DO something.

  • Plant a tree.
  • Volunteer at a food bank, pregnancy crisis center, or animal shelter.
  • Run for city counsel or other public office. (Or help someone who is.)
  • Join your kid’s PTO and volunteer at their next Teacher Appreciation Day.
  • Organize a retreat in your parish.
  • Offer a novena (Mary, Undoer of Knots is a good one) for the leaders of our country.
  • Volunteer to help teach an ESL or citizenship course.
  • Become a foster parent or Big Brother/Big Sister.

If you want to make a difference, roll up your sleeves and give it a little elbow grease. You’ll feel better about the state of our world in no time, I promise.

And please, PLEASE do not fill up the com box with diatribes about our President (yes, if you are an American he IS our president.) Just join me in praying for the man and those in other positions of authority and responsibility. Because he needs all the prayers he can get — and he would be the first to admit it.

Lord, we bring these upcoming elections to you. The airwaves are full of promises, and only you know the hearts of these candidates. To quote St. Joan, “Lord, if they are not in your grace, please put them there; if they are, please keep them there.” Give us courage and wisdom in the ballot box, and strength to make a difference where we are planted. In Jesus’ name, Amen.