I’ve had about 17 beginnings for this post. Around 762 ideas. 42 endings.
I’ve spent 6 days thinking about it. Had over 20 conversations. Read over 10 blog posts (this number could be MUCH higher), and many, many more social media posts. Trying to stay away from my own anger, as that is defeating the purpose of my message. We're all in the healing process.
But the number that just won’t leave my mind is 9.
Followed by 1.
Even as I’m typing, I’ve added and deleted entire paragraphs. There’s a very good chance this whole thing will be scrapped and I’ll start all over by tomorrow.
This is a tough one. Very stream of consciousness because I don’t know if I can corral all the thoughts in my head around this anyway...
Nine people died one week ago. By the gun of one. In one church. At 9:00 pm.
Nine hearts - beating for life and love
Nine minds - which housed their personal thoughts and aspirations
Nine mouths - used for speaking their Truth and communicating with loved ones
Nine families - who are in unmistakeable pain, but are setting a remarkable example
Eighteen hands - used for giving, holding and praying
Eighteen feet - used for carrying these beautiful souls around as they served their communities
You know what you don’t find in those numbers?
COLOR OR RACE
One of the most amazing things to me is those nine people sat with that young man, for an hour. They allowed a perfect stranger, obviously not a member of their church or community, to be in their place of worship, where they were studying sacred text. They talked to him. Allowed him. Even possibly welcomed him. (Not sure if we’ve heard all the details about what exactly happened within the church.)
They were walking their walk.
They were living the example of what they were studying. Grace. Tolerance.
Last week at this time (I’m writing this on Tuesday), I had NO IDEA who those nine people were. I’m pretty confident you didn’t know them either.
And they had NO IDEA they wouldn’t be here today.
Now we know them.
This is their legacy.
There is a reason.
We may not ever know why those nine people, in that church, on that night, at that time. And maybe never will fully understand the “reasoning” of the one who committed such a violent and horrible act. It’s not for us to judge. We have to trust in the unfolding of Life.
Although it breaks my heart that nine families have to endure this loss of their loved ones, even tragedy leaves gifts. It’s our job to find them, to listen for them amidst all the noise. And use what we learn, no matter how small and unlikely at first.
Last week at this time, they were talking to a friend. Or having breakfast with their families. Or counseling someone in need.
We are never guaranteed a long life. We aren’t guaranteed another day. Or moment. We have no idea how long our journey here will last.
So how do we choose to live?
Our city has come together full of love, kindness, open arms, forgiveness, hope, joy and light. It is truly something to behold. And I am so proud to be here during this time.
These nine families have led us here.
It is from their example of forgiveness, courage and Grace we are standing firm in our unity.
When we lift each other, we rise together.
I do hope we are listening to the subtle teachings and not just the really obvious ones. For example, yesterday someone posted on Facebook how everyone just seems more friendly these days: a soft smile, holding the door a little longer, looking a stranger in the eye and saying hello.
This is how we keep these feelings of Love and Harmony going and actually create impactful ongoing change.
Keeping a peaceful, loving, kind heart. EVERY. DAY. for EVERY. PERSON.
Peace comes from within. If we want to create a peaceful, kind and loving world, it starts within our own hearts. We’ve all heard it —
Be the change you want to see in the world.
We need to look for the dark corners within our own souls to find and flush out fear, negativity and hate with
First for ourselves, for holding beliefs that aren’t true. Because the Truth of ALL of us is Love. Then we can forgive others for forgetting who they truly are and holding their own untrue beliefs.
We need to practice kindness. As my friend Angel Roberts said in our Dance for Emanuel hip hop class last night (paraphrasing): We don’t know what happened in that boy’s life. But if someone, anyone, at some point would have been kind to him at a critical moment in his life, this may have never happened.
We never know when that critical moment may be occurring for someone.
Whatever you do, anywhere you are, at any moment, do it with intention and kindness and love.
That’s what those 9 Angels have taught us.
How to show up in life.
So, now…how long will we listen?
How long will we hear the voices singing Amazing Grace outside their church?
Days, weeks, months, years from now….after the marches and festivals and services and declarations for peace…
What will you do?
If you’re on the golf course with your buddies 812 days from now, or on a girls weekend or a cookout, and someone makes a racist comment, will you ignore it? Will you just “let it go?”
Will you stand up? Will you remember how you took your kids and walked on the bridge hand in hand and stood in front of that church so you WOULD remember?
Will you remember that although 9 is now a significant number for our city’s history, the most paramount number is
One heart. One soul. One rhythm. One city. One people. One world.
Embracing and allowing our colors to shine and differences to flow as the natural unique expression of the One Source of Life.
We are all the same. Do we get that now?
I saw someone ask, how to go on with day-to-day normal life after this has happened? It doesn’t feel right. Nothing ever will be the same. We can’t ever go back.
Well, that's right. We can't ever go back. And do we want to?
After my mom shot herself 9 years ago, I felt that way. How do I get back to how I was before?How do you go to the grocery store? How do you take your kids to school? How do you make dinner? How do you ANYTHING like you did before, when now it feels like someone covered you in thick black tar and sucked all the oxygen out of the air?
But guess what happens? You go to the grocery store. You take your kids to school. You make dinner. And it’s not ANYTHING like it was before.
It is different. You are different.
When you are shaken at the cellular level, you are reformatted in different patterns. You notice things. You have gratitude for the ridiculously tiny details.
And then, as if by magic, the sun is bright again. Even more vibrant. The oxygen in the air fills your lungs and you breathe as if for the first time. Again. Trees are greener. Flowers more beautiful. You feel love and forgiveness you didn’t know was available to you.
No, nothing is ever the same.
What's the best way to honor our Nine?
Live our lives to the absolute fullest.
With a broad smile, open arms and wide open heart.
Don’t wait until you feel better. Dance. Eat. Love. Write. Paint. Create. Celebrate Life. Honor them by showing up in our own lives as powerfully and joyfully as possible.
Take any pain you feel...feel it deeply, honor it, hold it...and transform it into action for good.
Then let it trigger a ripple effect in your own life…a ripple of love and kindness and joy…that touches everyone you meet…
which may just change the world.
To the Nine: I am grateful for your service. For your life. For showing up and showing us the way. I am grateful for the journey you chose in this life, to be the example of grace. My prayer is that we remember who you are, who we are, and choose Love, always.
To the City: I am grateful for your courage. To stand united and make choices from Love and not fear. For holding the space our community needs to heal. We may be suffering, but we are #charlestonstrong. And we will not be taken into chaos by one.