A song for my city. The aching hearts. The pain, the fear, at a little school 3 minutes from my home. Kendrick Castillo, you were taken too soon. This is not fair. You should have graduated high school by now. Beautiful boy. The most beautiful boy. Brown eyes of promise.
Jesus, please heal and save. It just doesn’t sit right. I see everything on social media. I see the brave kid talking on the news who literally had to jump in front of a gun, watch his friend die in front of him, and still show up to talk to reporters. I pray for him. I pray for all the sweet kids and families in my neighborhood, our safe neighborhood. Which forces us to confront the question. Why kids in Highlands Ranch grow up in this bubble (a bubble I am thankful for in many ways—it let me grow up innocently—but in which so many kids are suffering so deeply under the surface?) We have so much here. But why is it that the silent suffering, the disguised depravity, the long loneliness is so real in this Colorado suburb town, where 3 schools less than 20 miles of each other (Columbine, Arapahoe, now STEM) have suffered such deep loss due to senseless violence? When will we wake up to the real issue at hand—LOVE and community? The screens separate us. Moms and Dads are too busy and stressed at their jobs to pay attention to their suffering kids. Kids are secluded in their nicely furnished rooms, go to school, feel totally alone, and repeat. We need love and acceptance for who we are—ALL kids. Yes, we need policy change. Absolutely, 100%. But that still leaves an underlying problem of a lack of love in our homes, in our communities. An inability to look at the face of the Other and respond, like Moses, ‘Here I Am.’ We need real, authentic conversation, real community, real listening to the Other. This seeps into many issues of our society. We have forgotten how to listen, and we pay more attention to ourselves than the person in front of us who is just as lonely and confused as we are. I do believe gun control is a pro-life issue. But so is raising kids to know the immense and intrinsic value of their own lives and the lives of those around them. Kendrick will never go home to his mom and dad. They have an absence in their lives now so utterly profound and heavy. And what are we to do or think about this? We must act—act in love through listening and paying attention to the Holy Spirit and the person right in front of us. Look at your neighbor in the eyes and welcome them. Ask them how they are, really. Be there for them. Let’s have open conversation, open doors, open arms. Like Christ would. May be cliche but, what would Jesus do, in 2019 affluent America? He would go out of his way to care for the suffering ones, the lonely, spiritually poor ones with broken families and no one to turn to, and he would not care if it was an inconvenience or extra cost to spend time with them.
Create community, respect alterity, let the Other be Other but love them radically. Like Kendrick—that is precisely the extent to which we are called to love, the sacrifice we are called to make if we are to be like Christ. But for most of us, the best we can do and work toward is loving and offering oneself in love, not having it all figured out, allowing brokenness to be redeemed by the One who is Love, the One who is Divine Peace. Sweet Highlands Ranch, you raised me. The love people have in this town is real—I have known it—so where is it now? Why have we been failing at this? We must look up, look up from our phones and meet the eyes of the Other who calls our name, even though it is easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day stresses. I know that. It is easy to get swept up in the little stresses of daily life when you live in a place of material abundance. But even as we get caught up in those things, we cannot forget to extend a hand to our neighbor. To be bold enough to pray for them, or sit with them, or listen to them.
Each one of us can be the change. Less about me, more about the Other, the You that beckons me. Little sacrifices. Do little things with great love. Sit with a friend a little longer. Smile at someone. Hug a friend. Talk to a stranger and ask them about their day. Life is beautiful, way too beautiful, let us never forget to look up. Let Kendrick’s death awaken a place in all of us that reminds us of our humanity and who we are called to be, and the radical existence we all have, right now, on this blessed day.
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.