It’s personal

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Last Friday as I heard the President address the nation about the events in CT, he stated “this is a national tragedy”.  I knew  as the story was unfolding that this event was a national tragedy.  There was no doubt the events of last Friday would affect us  all.  There was no doubt that we all would want to do something. We would all want to right the wrong and fix the problem so it doesn’t happen again. My prayer is  that we would remember that to those 27 families who lost a child (whether young or grown) it is personal.

I understand a side of national tragedies that as a nation we don’t know. I don’t know the sorrow of losing a child but I do know the sorrow of losing a loved one in national tragedy.  And as I have said many times ” my daughters and I embarked on a journey we never expected to be on. We have had a personal loss in the midst of a national tragedy. And there is no handbook to tell you how to do that.”  A loss of a loved one is always a loss but when that loss happens in a way that  it throws you and your family into the center of something so much bigger than just your loss it can’t be understood unless you have lived it. Do you realize that the families of the victims of the CT shooting haven’t been able to turn the television, radio or computer on in the last week without being bombarded by “their loss”? It was proper and right that the President attended the interfaith service but do you really think they were excited to meet the President?  Those families in CT are grieving as the whole nation watches. Those families in CT are grieving as requests for interviews, comments and photos are being made by the media. Those families in CT are grieving as wonderful opportunities are being offered to them. Those families in CT are grieving for their children.

I understand that we all want to do something. So please say a prayer, send a card, make a donation but also remember in the days, weeks, months and years ahead as Dec 14, 2012 becomes known as the date of the worst school shooting in history that 27 families had a personal loss that day. Because after a while we forgot that there were families that suffered personal losses at Columbine, or Virginia Tech or when the Challenger exploded, or in the Oklahoma City bombing, or on September 11, 2001. We start to focus on how it changed us as a nation but to the families it was personal.

No words

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There are no words to explain what happened in Newtown, CT today. We know there was a terrible shooting. We know 20 children and 6 adults were killed. We know there are hundreds of children that have been traumatized.  We know the gunman killed himself. But there are no words that are adequate to describe the shock and disbelief that someone walked into a school and killed young children. It is totally unbelievable. I remember being shocked by Columbine, Virginia Tech, the Amish Schoolhouse shooting but this just seems worse. Is it because of the time of year?  Realizing that there are probably Christmas presents that have already been wrapped that will never be opened. Realizing there could be photo Christmas cards in the mail that picture a child that is now dead. My heart breaks for the families, and for the entire community.

My heart breaks for us as a nation because we went over a line. I can’t even imagine what could happen after today that would be more shocking than what happened today in Newtown, CT. And that is unacceptable. “We” need to do whatever it takes to make sure our children are safe. And it isn’t more laws, security check points or surveillance cameras that will make them safe. It is treating each other with respect. It is caring for our families. It is caring for our neighbors. It is teaching our children that their life and everyone else’s life is sacred.  I don’t want laws to teach that. Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles need to teach that. And this will get me in trouble with some people, I don’t even care how you teach it. If you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim or atheist just teach your children that they have value and so does everyone else.  Teach them to respect themselves and to respect others. And when they get older they will sort it out for themselves but teach them.  And when it is all said and done we will probably agree on more than we ever thought we could.  And even if we don’t agree, we can still talk and our children will be able to grow up and teach their children.

I remember on December 21, 1988 watching the newscasts about  Pan Am flight 103 blowing up over Lockerbie, Scotland. And there is an image I will never forgot. There was a mother standing in the airport and she is told the plane exploded and she screams and collapses to the floor in total despair. That image haunted me today.  There is a verse in the book of Matthew that states:”A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they were no more” Matthew 2:18

We call a wife that lost her husband a widow. We call a husband that lost his wife a widower. But there is no word for a parent that lost a child. It is just the wrong order of things. Praying for peace that passes all understanding for the moms, dads, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends that lost a child today. 😦

Super Shoppers & Super Storm Sandy

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Yesterday a friend and I delivered a few Christmas gifts to the Tunnel to Tower distribution center for Hurricane Sandy Relief in Staten Island. It was an amazing experience. The looks on the faces of the volunteers when we walked in with 3 large shopping bags full of gifts was awesome. They were so appreciative. I felt guilty because what we did is nothing in comparison to what they are doing each and every day. Last week when I had called to inquire about the feasibility of delivering the gifts the woman on the phone had said “if you come on a Saturday maybe you could volunteer for a couple of hours.” I can tell you that I gained so much more than I gave yesterday. I am awed at the opportunities that the Lord puts before me.  Let me start at the beginning of how this all came to be.

In the days and weeks since Hurricane Sandy, Warwick Valley Church of the Nazarene, my local church has collected money from all over the nation. Actually my Pastor, PB, has been the main person in this. (He will deny that but it is true) He has a lot of friends – real friends and Facebook friends that wanted to “do something”. One of the many things PB is good at is mobilizing people whether in person or through social media.  So money started arriving at WVCN. “We” used some of that money to purchase blankets, water and flashlights. People within our congregation and community donated more blankets, flashlights and water. And within one week of the storm those supplies went down to the effected areas. Some were also distributed in our local community.

At the same time the Metro New York District Church of the Nazarene through SDMI started a Christmas gift drive for Hurricane Sandy Families. SDMI stands for Sunday School and Discipleship Ministries International. I am the Metro New York District Children’s Ministries Director.  The idea is that local churches/communities will collect Christmas gifts, then deliver them to a mission area collection site and then the gifts will be distributed to Hurricane Sandy families.  WVCN is a mission area collection site for the Northern zone and our gifts will go to Staten Island. We are also collecting in six other locations with those gifts going to Long Island, Far Rockaway and Jersey City. See Metro New York Church of the Nazarene on Facebook for further information. Anyone can contribute – the more, the merrier.

Anyway, I mentioned the gift drive to PB and he came up with “Keep Calm and Shop with Pastor” event that took place on December 1 at 10:30. Kids from my church shopped at the local toy store and purchased gifts for the gift drive using the money that had been donated from all over the nation. Well, this blossomed into an amazing event. While the kids shopped at the toy store, teens and adults shopped at other local shops to purchase gifts for teens and adults. PB had contacted the store owners ahead of time and the store owners were thrilled with the idea and gave 20% discount as well as a no tax. YES!! The event was wonderful. The kids did a super job shopping. People commented on how well-behaved they were and what great gifts they had picked. I was thrilled when I realized we would be shopping in the local toy store – no electronics. If we had shopped in a big toy store, picking electronics would have been the first choice of many of the children. Shopping at the small local store gave way to the purchase of dolls, puzzles, books, crafts, dress up clothes and games. It was so fun seeing what the kids picked.  J is really into trains so he found a book about trains and two little trains for a kindergarten age boy. E loves dress up and she picked a fuzzy pink boa, gold wings and crown for a kindergarten age girl. It was delightful to watch. After shopping we all headed to church to wrap the gifts in clear cellophane. Thank God for cellophane bags. Because wrapping a hundred gifts with 17 children would have been something. And probably not something good. The adult and teen volunteers were wonderful and patient. Pizza was served for lunch. The gifts were placed under and around the tree and I was home by 2:30. The whole event was energizing but when I got home I needed a nap.

The Church of the Nazarene doesn’t have any churches on Staten Island so we began seeking a place to deliver the gifts. A member of our church was born in Staten Island and still has family there so she started “finding” us a place to donate. And that is how I ended up at the “House of Crabs” – Tunnel to Tower collection location yesterday. While I was there another one of the other volunteers asked where we are from and I said Warwick Valley Church of the Nazarene. She mentioned she used to live in Port Jervis, and her husband is a firefighter. Conversation continues and she says “I met you about 10 years ago you are the woman who lives in Greenwood Lake.” Okay that is weird. 🙂

When my friend and I left the center we drove towards the beach. Oh my!!! It was like we were in a third world country. I know it has been said before but you have to see it, to believe it. And that being said it is unbelievable – house after house boarded up, storefronts being cleaned out, tents distributing supplies, insurance company mobile units, the military, the police, debris, garbage, cars and trucks in the strangest places.  While we were stopped at a traffic light, I looked over and realized that the storefront being cleaned out was the local dancing school and with that I started to cry. The families and businesses affected my Hurricane aka Super Storm Sandy will need our help for a long time. This won’t be better soon. May we not grow weary in doing good. We are heading back to Staten Island next Saturday to deliver more gifts.

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