What Are We Fighting For? Part 4: There Is No Them


The past three weeks have been both difficult and beautiful around here. Adjusting to life without Dad is not easy, nor is all of the end-of-life business that happens after losing someone. At the same time, our family, friends, and even members of the community we’ve never met before, have shown up in force and rallied to support our family in countless ways. For that, we are so grateful!

While this sudden loss has been a bit bewildering and stirred up questions (like what ACTUALLY happens to a person’s spirit when they die), there are other things that have become abundantly clear (like how so much crap we worry about from day to day that isn’t worth our trouble in the grand scheme of life).

Dad would want us to continue our work toward a more loving and unified world, so we press on and continue with the blog series, “What Are We Fighting For?” But it isn’t easy. Especially today.

Another tragedy has just rocked our community. Five minutes from our house, two local teachers - both loved and revered - were found dead on Wednesday night around 6:00 PM. The couple was going through a divorce. One of them was my son’s kindergarten teacher sixteen years ago, and she was an extraordinary lady. Friends who worked with her husband express similar reflections about him, recalling what a favorite he was among students, coworkers and friends. Yet authorities are not seeking suspects. When neighbors heard shots ring out from their home, these two individuals were the only ones inside.

We have more questions than answers right now, but one fact is indisputable: these individuals were surrounded by people every day who cared about them, they were doing exemplary work, both were smart, gorgeous, talented, and so loved. Yet, for whatever reason, they have left a gaping hole in the world that no one else can fill.

Our journey with loss has already taught us that, at times like this, we naturally ask ourselves what we could have done. We go through the “what ifs” and wonder if there were signs of trouble that were simply overlooked until the unthinkable happened.

Each blog in this 12-part series offers a specific challenge to help us find ways to stop fighting against each other, but rather for each other. Today is a solemn reminder that we’re all just humans who are fighting battles often invisible to others. Our humanity can either cause us to self-destruct, or it can help us find common ground where we can connect with one another in powerful ways.

I used to think impressing people was the way to feel connection and acceptance. That proved to be the opposite of true. I had become the product of a church culture that put a great deal of emphasis on who is “in” and who is “out” of good standing. In that environment, people were were isolated and afraid to share their pain or fear with anyone…they were being told that even God might reject them. So much time was wasted “out-Christianing” each other right into isolation.

From church culture, to politics, to race and gender equality, it seems like everyone is obsessed with sorting and labeling people as a means of dividing the world into us and them. When we do that, we settle for a polarized, disconnected world.

We allow our ignorance to prevail upon us and make us think we can survive alone, alone in patches, alone in groups, alone in races, even alone in genders.

Maya Angelou

Jesus spent 32 years on earth doing away with the “us and them” mentality. He touched the untouchable, humbled the pious, forgave freely and turned social norms on their heads. He leveled the playing field to give everyone a seat at the table.

We are all equal members of this giant family called humanity. We could all be a few decisions away from being tomorrow’s breaking news if we convince ourselves that we can’t possibly let someone into our struggles, admit our anger, or help us carry our grief.

If your story is hard, just look around you and know that you are not alone. We’re all struggling! We’re scared. We get mad. We feel insecure and hope our flaws don’t make us incapable of the love we crave. We fear isolation, regardless of how well we hide it. We fear screwing up our kids and disappointing people we respect. We all shudder to imagine what happens if we never accomplish that thing that we believe gives us significance. It is through our frailties, not our perfection, that we can find the solace of human connection.

Today, can we allow the short lives of two amazing school teachers remind us that the world needs every single one of us? Whether or not you fully know why your life matters, just know that it does. And whether or not your life plan is going the direction you hoped, there is something much bigger at play than you even know. The world needs you, just as you are. And we need each other.

Community isn’t somewhere else, it’s US. Family is US. The world is US. And there is no them.

Emily SutherlandComment