where you were when…

We all have those moments. Moments that we can recall where were and what we were doing when something big was happening…something horribly tragic…something big happening in what would be of historical significance…

  • when President Reagan was shot
  • when the Challenger exploded
  • when the Berlin Wall was coming down
  • when Princess Diana died
  • the morning of September 11, 2001
  • the first time we heard planes above us AFTER September 11, 2001

All of these and more…moments of significance that we shall always recall and likely will share with the generations that come after us. Perhaps they will sit quietly listening because these are moments that are history to them…or perhaps they will sigh heavily, roll their eyes as they think to themselves “here she goes rambling on again.” Your mileage may vary.

Last night was such a night with a friend. I’m not sure how and why we talked about moments like these and where we were…in bed…home sick from school…at a dinner meeting…helping a foreign exchange student pack for her trip home…getting the kids off to school…hiking in the Almaden foothills…separated while living our daily, routine lives yet connected on those days we will always remember.

I imagine years from now for some of us we shall recall the days when Pope Francis came, saw, captivated and challenged so many here in the United States whether we were Catholic or not. Regardless of what we might believe (or not believe), it’s hard not to find yourself listening to this man as he speaks and as he challenges us all the more to live simply, walk humbly, share compassion and serve our fellow human beings remembering the importance of kindness in every day little gestures:

They get lost amid all the other things we do, yet they do make each day different. They are the quiet things done by mothers and grandmothers, by fathers and grandfathers, by children and siblings. Like a warm supper, a blessing before bed, a hug after a long day. These things are signs of tenderness, affection and compassion.

The bitter, jaded and cynical ones might cluck their tongues but it’s hard not to give pause to listen to someone who seems to walk the talk that he speaks. For me the most compelling moment was his words during the Interfaith meeting at the 9-11 Memorial. The entire meeting seemed to reinforce that this memorial site truly is hallowed ground. His brief invocation followed reflections from Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove of the Park Avenue Synagogue, and Imam Khalid Latif, a chaplain at New York University, and came before additional meditations and prayers from the Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh traditions.

This is a place where we shed tears, we weep out of a sense of helplessness in the face of injustice, murder, and the failure to settle conflicts through dialogue. Here we mourn the wrongful and senseless loss of innocent lives because of the inability to find solutions which respect the common good…This place of death became a place of life too, a place of saved lives, a hymn to the triumph of life over the prophets of destruction and death, to goodness over evil, to reconciliation and unity over hatred and division.

No, I’m not Catholic and perhaps I am not nearly as religious as I might have been in the past. But I am a human being and I do believe life is so much more fruitful to live with kindness, compassion and a willingness to reach out and share such things with others. Pope Francis’ visit to the Untied States and seeing it through the eyes and ears of the media, social media and my friends who were fortunate enough to be in his presence (along with a few hundred thousand other people) reminds me again to continue to try and live my life in this way…which will likely guarantee that much more happiness than the bitter, jaded and cynical ones.

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