I Am Her, She is Me, and We Are We {Reflections on the Paris Attack}

{My earliest thoughts last night, raw, incomplete, and for the most part, unedited. But I had to get them out.}

I was slow to hear the news today, but when I began to listen, all I could manage was a string of one word prayers...hold, love, healing, light, courage, hope, strength, peace...

As the stories and images of people in Paris poured forth, so too the emotions erupted within. I couldn't find words at first {and still really can't}, only emotions. And questions. Seated in the comfort and current safety of my own home, I felt the urge to turn it all off, to go to sleep, to look away. But I can't look away. I can't. We can't. 

 I would love to give someone credit for this photo...

I would love to give someone credit for this photo...

When I see an image, like the one to the left, of the American Flag laid out in front of the Eiffel Tower, with a caption that reads: WHAT THEY DID TO HONOR US ON 9/11, I think to myself, there is no us and them {France and the U.S.}. They are us, and we are them.

Earlier, I kissed my boys goodnight, as I do every night, but tonight the massive wave of that indescribable something washed over me, the one that leaves me wanting to hold them ever so tight and never let go. My mind turns to the Parisian mom, holding her kids tightly tonight, hovering in the dark, covering their ears from the never-ending scream of sirens. And it hits me, I am her and she is me, bound together not only by the thread of our humanity but also by the commonality of a love something fierce, that of a mother's love. I think of how we are probably more alike than we are different. Tonight, see her tears. I hold her pain. I stand with her in her fear. I make room for her sadness. I think of her tonight. I am her, she is me, and we are we.

I think of those who have lost and are devastated today, those who have loved ones unaccounted for, those whose innocence has been shattered. I feel a deep sadness for their pain. And if I'm honest, I also feel deep gratitude - for where I am right now and for my people, here sleeping soundly under this roof. That always bizarre and never comfortable juxtaposition of two strikingly different emotions, held together in one tiny beating heart. To feel thankful for what I have, in light of someone else's have not, feels on one hand cruel, and on the other, strangely right.

As I feel the sadness and the gratitude, I also see the injustice and I see the terror in their eyes and I feel angry, so angry. There is this sense of feeling so very small and yet still capable of holding such big, big emotions.

And then I watch the powerful video showing thousands of strangers joining together in singing the French national anthem as they walk with trepidation toward the exit of the soccer stadium, unsure of what they will find as they cross out into the street. Why is it that we come together in tragedy? That in a blink of an eye what was "us and them" gets traded in for "we." That suddenly we see each other in both our humanity and our glory. That we finally realize, I am her, she is me, and we are we.

I know that people will be working long and hard to figure out who is responsible for this horrific attack on innocent people. As they should. There absolutely needs to be a response on the larger scale. But I also have to ask myself, what do I do with all of this? Right here where I live. How do I allow it to change me? How do I stand with Paris? What does that even mean? Because Paris isn't just a place with a big tower. It's a city filled with people, people like me. People with names and faces and stories. People who are hurting. People who don't have the option to look away. And these hurting people are not just in Paris, they are everywhere. They are in Beirut, where a deadly bombings ocurred two days ago. They are in the Horn of Africa. They are wandering refugees looking for a home. They are right next door. Because when we peel away the layers of difference, they are us and we are them. And so, no, I cannot look away.

There is a temptation to let fear and anger lead the way. But they cannot win out because alone, they don't lead anywhere worth going. So, I stand and I listen and I watch and I think and I feel and I shout and I pray and I hope. I hope not for understanding but for healing, the kind of healing which I don't, in fact, understand. I call out to the one who heals, for the light to rise, because I don't believe that darkness wins. I hope for comfort and strength and light - light to shine into the shattered and broken places. And I am reminded to see, to really see people, near and far - the neighbor, the store clerk, the person on the other side of the political aisle, the homeless person on the corner, the bank teller, the parent at school drop-off - and I enter into what she is experiencing and feeling. I stand with her, because I am her, she is me, and we are we. And only when we see, can we truly love. And love is the only thing that can drive out hate.