Dear people of Sutherland Springs,
I am writing to you, from Israel, to tell you that I see you.
Halfway around the world, with enough worries of our own, it was heart-breaking to hear of the devastating shooting in your community.
We know what it means to have our loved ones ripped from us.
I see you. I see your pain. I see the children who no longer have parents. I see the parents who yearn for their children but will never again have the luxury of embracing them or reading them a bedtime story. Who will watch other children grow up, knowing that theirs should be the same age, be having similar experiences but, instead, are a memory, frozen in time.
I see the kids who want to play with friends who are no longer alive. I see cousins, uncles, grandparents, friends who are left behind, not knowing how to go on living when other family members, other friends are dead.
I see gaping holes that can never be filled. Lives lost, love lost.
And those who are left behind, injured in body, hurting in soul. A community, like a person trying to get warm under a blanket only to discover that the blanket is full of holes…
I see you.
An insane, sick murderer is not the same as the ideological terrorists who attack us and yet, what is experienced by those left behind, is very similar. We know your pain.
When people from abroad hear about attacks on my people they often see agenda, not people. They see politics, not humanity. Similarly, in your case, I saw the media jump on the issues of gun control, NRA and religion, whether or not Stephen Willeford is a hero (he acted heroically, all real heroes say that they are not heroes. Many, like Stephen, mourn those they did not manage to save). Much focus is put on agendas and very little attention to the people behind the headlines…
I am writing you to say that I see you.
I see decent, God-fearing people, who just want to live their lives the best way they know how – just like us. I see people who would have preferred no one ever heard of their little town, if only they could have their loved ones back – just like us.
I also see something else. I see opportunity.
You cannot control what happened to you. You do not have the power to turn back time and undo this horror. But, at the same time, you are not powerless.
You have a power that seems lost to much of America. You have love. You have each other.
While people who live in other towns and cities do not know their neighbors, you already know yours well. You know how to look beyond self-interest, beyond the walls of your own home, to reach out to help a neighbor in need, to make your community a better, stronger, kinder place.
To you, We the People, still means something.
I am not writing to tell you how to deal with this tragedy. From everything I have read about your community, I believe your hearts and your faith will lead you to do what is right.
This horror will not divide you, instead, it will make you stronger.
While the gaps in your individual families cannot be filled, it is possible to step closer to each other as a community. To be there for those who no longer have the ones they wish were there. Parents who lost children can do wonders for the children of others, children who no longer have their parents. Friends can do amazing things for husbands and wives who no longer have their spouse to rely on.
No murderer can break you. Only lack of love can do that.
I am writing you to say that your tragedy is also an opportunity. By being who you are, you provide a shining light to the rest of the Nation. My people are those commanded to be a “Light to the Nations.” We do our best to fulfill this task by being the best we can be, by returning darkness with light, by deliberately infusing happiness and positivity in the places where our attackers tried to create sorrow and horror. By living and living well, when others wish us dead.
You can do the same.
Today, the USA seems enshrouded by darkness, division, and anger. This makes America weak and a weak America makes the world more dangerous (believe me, I know). I pray the people of America look to you and remember what it means to be decent, regular folks who look out for each other.
This may just be the moment when you are the most powerful you have ever been, could ever be.
Dear people of Sutherland Springs, I see you. I see your pain and I see your light.
I pray for your injured to be healed, for your bereaved to find comfort and that the people of America see what I see when I look to you.
Blessings from Israel,