I may take some flak for this, but what if someone in Adam Lanza’s shy world had reached out to him? We may never know all the facts of his life and relationships. Perhaps we will even hear stories of individuals who reached out to him, who expressed kindness and acceptance. Jean Vanier, reminds us that, “the way of the heart implies a choice. We can choose to take this path and treat people as people and not just as machines.” So we can look at a person not just in the role we see them serve. For example looking beyond the role of a teacher, grocery clerk, or a socially isolated classmate to looking at the person, which means we understand they have a heart, that they may have difficult relationships, and that they need our “understanding and kindness.” This implies that we have something to give in our circles of influences, those places where we encounter others. We can choose to stay uninvolved and self-focused, or through intentional awareness we can offer kindness and acceptance.
Vanier goes on to say, “our hearts can become hard like stone or tender like flesh. We have to create situations where our hearts can be fortified and nourished. In this way, we can be more sensitive to others, to their needs, their cries, their inner pain, their tenderness, and their gifts of love.” I wonder if Adam ever experienced such compassion? What gifts of love were never expressed towards him, and therefore, never manifested in him? It is easy to hate him now, to call him a monster. We simply cannot fathom beyond the realm of evil what could initiate such a horribly tragic crime. I realize I’m taking a lot of license in perceiving the heart, the pain, and the needs of Adam and others like him. I am not writing to debate evil vs. mental illness, or that a life of personal pain negates the call for justice. I am writing about love.
You and I have the daily opportunity to live a life of love. “Mature” love puts its trust in God and can therefore stand in a place outside of belonging. It can discern when to take risks that bring life and “meet people who have been excluded” Vanier. What brings life to another person?
We bring life when:
- our hearts are open to others who may be weak or in need.
- we humbly serve others, when we listen to their story, and when we see them through God's eyes.
- we see gifts in others and see what unites us.
Do you recall the story of a woman who was going through some tough times only to find herself hostage to a man fleeing from the authorities? Fearing for her own life, this woman found the courage and the then faint story of hope to share the gospel. From her own place of pain she reached out to her captive’s pain. She listened to his story, a life in which he never experienced love. She saw a heart desperate to be loved and in need of the hope of the Father’s love. Not only did her captive give his life to Christ, she was freed and renewed her faith in God. This is the power of love!
September 1st is highlighted as Random Acts of Kindness Day. We know the importance of kindness. We understand our need for kindness. While the day reminds us to be kind, to pay it forward, let’s also live a daily life of love. Let’s live a life that is aware of the needs of others, that consistently reaches out to others in the pace of our everyday lives and circles of our influence. As we practice awareness let’s also add the power of Christ’s sacrifice by practicing Random Acts of Prayer.