I am busy looking up the term bénéfice du doute--all the while doubting this is the way to begin today's letter. I am numbed, saddened, and shaken by the carnage in Las Vegas, as well as by the hurricaines and earthquakes, and by more local terrorism. Two girls, cousins my daughter's age, were stabbed to death Sunday--at the Gare St Charles in Marseille. Only a few weeks before, in the same train station, 4 young girls, fellow Americans, survived an acid attack. Our thoughts go out to these victims and their families and we send our support (feel free to recommend charities in the comments box. My friend Jo Ellen listed this one, for Puerto Rico, and Margaret listed The Red Cross. Thank you!)
As we all attempt to process these atrocities, let's remember to be respectful to others. This is a tempting time to point fingers at or ridicule those around us. There is an urge to find somebody to blame or someone to be the dunce when none of us truly know what will happen next and therefore how to prepare for it.
A few days ago a reader angrily signed off my newsletter. Referring to a post in my archives, she accused me of caring more about my broken fountain than the hurricaine in Houston. Reading her comment, I was stung by the power of words. Then, this morning, while scrolling through Facebook I saw, in response to the Las Vegas massacre, a cartoon ridiculing those who believe in God. It characterised believers as people who do not live in reality.
(Not living in reality? I thought of the past year-and-a-half--of the past 14+ years of facing each and every day without so much as an aspirin to dull my senses. But this essay is not about sobriety.)
I wasted a lot of time staring at that cartoon, trying to form a response in defence of faith. The more I tried the more fired up I became. And then I thought, What kind of example am I when I respond in anger? When I lash out? When I end up ridiculing the one who ridicules?
But it took my 20-year-old daughter to help me see things in a different light. Regarding the angry subscriber, Jackie said, "Mom, she is very upset about the hurricaine. She has to lash out at something."
My hope this morning is that my former reader will give me le bénéfice du doute. And that I may extend the same good faith--which brings me back to the cartoon depicting an atheist and a believer (both may have gotten a bad rap in that cartoon!). The two seem to have something in common after all. Both have to admit to not knowing what comes next, to whether or not one will take his or her next breath. And yet both, by their actions--whether by repairing a broken fountain or by parenting a child, demonstrate a belief in the unknown--or the as-yet-unreal tomorrow. A tomorrow which can neither be measured nor seen by the naked eye.
I leave you with a sunrise. Please leave everyone you come in contact with today with the same.
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi