As difficult as it is to watch the Squirrel Hill neighborhood come together in their grief, it also reminds us of what community means, and of the power of community.
Protestors in Pittsburgh carried signs with messages like, “We are all neighbors,” “Love not hate,” “Words matter.”
In their grief, these residents turned out to shun the divisive, hateful acts and messaging of which we have all had enough. They shunned the President’s visit as an act serving to co-opt the grieving into a photo op – a visit squeezed in between political rallies that have all too often been forums for negative messaging. (One imagines he likely would have been vilified for not visiting, too, specifically in the context of that messaging.)
It is a beautiful thing to see people pull together to share their difficulties, and to try the change the world for the better. It is beautiful to see living, breathing community – where each unique individual becomes a meaningful part of the whole.
In between sad moments such as these, though, it seems as if community has largely gone missing – and we all suffer for it.
Fact is, every single one of us has been commodified by an increasingly oppressive system, and that the price on our employment, daily activities, speech, purchasing, opinions, dreams, education, recreation, nourishment, health or the lack of it, old age – stands between us and our neighbors. It keeps our heads down, eyes averted, words censored. It keeps us too busy, too worried, and to divided to join hands and hearts in true community.
I see it every day in the folks I pass as I run or walk. I am always astonished and saddened by the many good people who never see me smiling at them, who grimly choose not to respond to my greeting.
But the spark is there. We’re humans, and the spark is always there. The strife we are suffering with right now has its origins in the deliberate damping of that spark.
Let’s shield and fan that little spark until it glows and burns brightly.
As Rabbi Jeffrey Myers urged, “Speak words of love, speak words of decency and respect.”
If we comport ourselves in keeping with that very simple message, we will see our times change.
It is a question for each one of us to consider – how to truly show up, meet our neighbors, and build positive, caring communities. Thoughts?