Last weekend, the news flashed across our digital screens: yet another mass shooting among mall shoppers in our normally quiet corner of northwestern Washington state,
Beyond the rise of gun deaths, which should trouble us all, I pondered the heartache of ordinary people. A carefree outing can vanish in the time it takes for a troubled young man to pull the trigger of a gun a few times.
Five people killed at random, out for innocent Saturday evening fun—shopping, movie watching, perhaps a meal out.
Then I remembered an eighth grade Valentine’s Day party when I was thirteen years old.
It was also the day my father was due to come home from the hospital, An ambulance had taken him there following a sudden heart attack. Now, so medical tests showed, he had recovered well enough to return to us.
Instead, in the middle of the Valentine party, a family friend appeared at the classroom door and took my teacher aside to talk to him. I will always be grateful to that teacher for then leading me outside and so gently telling me that my father had died.
I learned at an impressionable, early adolescent age that good things are not guaranteed to continue.
No matter that mall outings join the list of community spaces where innocent fun can change in an instant to soul numbing tragedies. Yes, we’re called to address the issues that allow people to be killed so easily, but first we must take care of families plunged into tragedy through no fault of their own.
After my father died, we learned the value of friends surrounding us with care. They led us again to believe in purpose. They moved us beyond tragedy, able again to enjoy life’s blessings, of which many more were to come.
Good times may not last, but neither do bad times.