We must not allow the two “mass shootings” of yesterday (Alexandria, VA and the UPS warehouse in San Francisco, CA) or the 17 others this month in the United States to undo us. The constant barrage of “bad news” has a tendency to do just that. We must not allow the actions of one person or group, acting out of hatred, evil, insanity, or whatever, to divide and conquer us as a nation, or to take from us our sense of wonder as we wander through this wilderness sojourn in our developing democracy.
A tale long ago told of a people escaping the bondage of Egypt may need to be re-told to help us remember our own story and retain our balance as a people. This ancient people braved great dangers to find their freedom. When they came to a sea, with their foe’s army close behind, the sea opened and they made safe passage—the army did not. They rejoiced as they began their trek into a desert wilderness. After three days without water they came to a spring, but the water was bitter. They complained. The spring water was sweetened in some mysterious way and they rejoiced. But not for long, because soon they became hungry. One morning they awoke and found the ground covered with a white substance like frost which they called manna. They rejoiced. Every day, every month and every year for forty years—they ground it up, they baked it, they boiled it and made it into cakes—trying to give some variety to this daily fare. It did not take long for them to complain once again. Then a flock of quail just happened to be blown into their encampment and once again they rejoiced. They did not know the way to go, and they bitterly argued among themselves about direction, and somehow or another, a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, led them through. Finally (and the full story is forty years of story) after a long and arduous journey they arrived at a place they called “Promised Land.” But even in this Promised Land they faced new obstacles—rejoicing at the wonder of it all and complaining when they forgot the wonders that had happened before.
In that tale long ago told, I see the story of our own nation. The story of that people and the story of our own people makes me wonder how we have survived. How have we, as a nation, survived wars, depressions, civil upheavals, crooked politicians and great politicians, and now, even these mass shootings? Is there some guiding principle, some destiny at work, or divine providence that has put up with our frail performance and our constant complaints? Hang on! Do not let anything, not even these tragic shootings, undo you or cause you to lose your sense of wonder.