Here on the west coast I was on my farm in Oregon. I had finished my chores and was coming in from walking the dogs. A friend who was staying with me was still asleep. The night before we stayed up late canning fruit, and twenty one pints were lined up on the counter. I was pleased that every jar had sealed.
Then I turned on the news.
That moment of confusion, and then shock, and then overwhelming grief.
On days like today, my memories can almost overwhelm me. Maybe you are having the same experience. All week we have heard the stories and seen the pictures that take us back to that day in our own hearts.
In response to the grief, the anger, fear and hate that were unleashed that morning became deadly too. Islamophobic violence cost lives. In less than a month we had sent troops to Afghanistan. Twenty years later we are still witnessing what those responses to pain can cost.
Still, what I find when I go to my own heart is not just grief, or anger, or fear. What I also remember are the surprising kindnesses of that day and the weeks that followed. The responses of the community of Gander, Newfoundland where flights from around the world were sent to wait are legendary. Responses in New York and Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania were heroic. But even in my own world, in small ways, I witnessed kindnesses too. Strangers’ eyes seemed to carry genuine care when they met mine on the street or in the store. Drivers slowed down on the roads to let my car merge. When I came up to Seattle that next weekend to meet the congregation that would soon call me as a pastor, that sense of care holding me continued. Strangers. Saying hello. Asking each other how they are. Extending simple kindnesses.
Today with all my memories, with the candle I will light, with the prayers I am sending for those who still grieve the losses of that day and the losses that have stemmed from that day, and for a country and a world that still seems to turn from grief to anger to hate to violence, and alongside my ongoing commitment to the work of dismantling systems of oppression, I have one more way of remembering. Today I recommit myself to kindness.