Saturday, November 23, 2013
"What we have done alone for ourselves dies with us;
what we have done for others and the world remains immortal."
Dear Winters, California,
You are so darling.
You are a small community...connected and close.
You have natural beauty and the authentic beauty of a community that cares. You are special and rare.
Last Monday morning, your beautiful town was forever scarred.
You lost a citizen to murder, in broad daylight, going about her everyday routine of living in your town being a single mom. Her boyfriend, filled with anger and hate, stole a life and created a shadow of darkness and fear.
I am so so sorry.
Know that many are praying for you, sending their love and surrounding you in good thoughts.
In your grief you have a choice.
You can choose love.
You have a chance to honor the person stolen from you. You have a chance to remember her light and her beauty. You can share her stories, her humor, her acts of kindness and her strength. You can look this act of rage and anger straight in the face and recognize that these sorts of stories need outside support and greater acceptance. You don't have to be ashamed if you are being mistreated or abused.
When we stand with people at the margins, there are no margins.
(Wish I could claim credit for that line but that is the wisdom of Father Greg Boyle who has seen more than his fair share of loss and murder working with the gangs of east LA.)
Or you can choose fear.
You can close yourself off from the outside world. You can suspect the outsider and shut your heart off with judgment and criticism. You can pretend it didn't happen. Never speak of it again. You can comfort yourself with the numbing idea that those sorts of stories only happen to other families and other people or that this was a one-time-only weird thing.
I hope you choose love.
I pray that with your broken hearts you can recognize the crack in others' hearts and see that we all need forgiveness, kindness and light. I hope that as a town you can do something big that honors this woman and creates a safe haven for the many others that are just like her.
I hope that Winters becomes the ground-zero of bringing community compassion and care to a whole new level.
I know you are that kind of place.
And I want to remind you of one of the laws of physics: the conservation of energy.
Energy doesn't just disappear.
Although Leslie's physical self is no longer here, her energy most certainly is.
It is surrounding you, transforming you -- moving and calming and guiding.
You can already see this in the way people are responding in this terrible moment.
Hold this knowledge close...let that be your comfort.
Hold each other close.
We are with you.every.step.of.the.way.