I missed September 11, 2001. I was at a school nature camp, and the teachers chose not to tell us what had happened, leaving it for our parents to do four days later.

As such, my memories of that time are different from most. By the time I got home and saw the video footage, the paralysis of shock and fear had already passed by. There was still so much grief and pain, but the country was moving again, people pulling together to do what needed to be done. Churches of all denominations united in prayer. People offered food, clothing, shelter, whatever they could give to complete strangers who were in need. Stories surfaced everywhere of people taking the part of angels, bringing relief to those who grieved, who toiled, who couldn’t go home.

For a while, our country–and others as well–remembered something: we are all human. We are all in this together. We need each other desperately.

I wish we could remember this more often. That instead of picking apart each others’ differences, we could see the things we all share. That we could put aside our opinions long enough to see a person’s soul instead of just political views. That we could build each other up as we did in the wake of destruction, instead of tearing each other down in our comfortable prosperity.

And so I’ll start with me. I’ll work a little harder to see that person on the street or in the store not as an Other, but as a fellow member of this human race. I’ll work on not letting a difference of opinion stand in the way of what could be a great friendship. I’ll seek to salve the hurts that I can. I’ll remember–not the the terror or the hate or the pain–but the greatness that rose in our souls to push that darkness away.

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.” –J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

The Builder

THE BUILDER
(author unknown)

I saw them tearing a building down
A team of men in my hometown.
With a heave and a ho and a yes yes yell,
they swung a beam and a sidewall fell.

And I said to the foreman, “Are these men skilled?”
“Like the ones you’d use if you had to build?”
And he laughed and said, “Oh no, indeed…
the most common labor is all I need…
for I can destroy in a day or two
what takes a builder ten years to do.”

So I thought to myself as I went on my way…
Which one of these roles am I willing to play?
Am I one who is tearing down as I carelessly make my way around?
Or am I one who builds with care, in order to make the world a
little better… because I was there?